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Cardinals Beat Pirates 6-1 In NLDS Game 5 As Adam Wainwright Delivers Gem (VIDEO)

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Adam Wainwright sprinted to the mound for the ninth inning, sending a message that he had plenty left. He pretended not to notice when the bullpen got busy, and he avoided eye contact with manager Mike Matheny.

Without saying a word, the St. Louis Cardinals ace told them all to stand down, he had this one.

"To pitch a game like that was one of the highlights of my baseball life, no doubt," Wainwright said after throwing a complete game to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Wednesday night and put the Cardinals in the NL championship series for the third straight season.

"These are the moments that starting pitchers live for."

David Freese's two-run homer in the second inning off rookie Gerrit Cole was all Wainwright needed. The right-hander also had won Game 1 and allowed one run in 16 innings in two dominant outings against the Pirates.

The Cardinals are 8-1 when facing postseason elimination the last three years, and they get to stay at home to open the NLCS against the well-rested Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

"It's going to be a blast," Freese said. "It's going to be fun, St. Louis and L.A. going at it."

Wainwright was motivated for Game 5, mindful that he'd put the Cardinals in an early 6-0 hole at Washington last October and needed the offense to pick him up. He struck out Pedro Alvarez with two men on to end the complete game that he'd said was a goal.

"I didn't want to see him come out of that game, and he wasn't coming out," Matheny said. "It made everybody in the whole stadium's hair stand on end, because you could see he wanted that ball worse than anything in the world."

Jon Jay had an RBI single in the sixth and Matt Adams hit his first homer of the postseason, a two-run shot off Mark Melancon in the Cardinals' three-run eighth.

Alvarez was again a highlight for Pittsburgh, becoming the first player to get an RBI in his first six postseason games on a fluke hit that caromed off first base in the seventh. The rally began with a pair of infield hits.

The Pirates were held to one run in each of the final two games of their first playoff appearance since 1992. Pittsburgh beat the Reds in the NL wild-card game, but hasn't won a postseason series since winning the World Series in 1979.

"We're not the team that lost again, we're the team that won," MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen said. "We definitely have to take a little pride in that we were that team.

"It feels like it's going to be the beginning for us."

Wainwright was helped by three double plays — two when Pirates runners strayed too far on line drives. The right-hander struck out six and walked one in a 107-pitch effort.

As a rookie in 2006, Wainwright got the final out in the NLCS and World Series. He's 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and four saves in 15 career postseason games, including six starts.

The 23-year-old Cole threw six dominant innings to beat the Cardinals in Game 2, also in St. Louis. His fastball hit 100 mph in the first inning against Matt Holliday but he paid for a hanging breaking ball to Freese, then got lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth.

"If it's a different game, probably could ride him a little bit longer," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've only got 12 outs to play with and we don't have any runs."

Freese struggled this season to overcome a back injury in spring training and had nine homers and 60 RBIs. But just like teammate Carlos Beltran, he's an October star with seven homers, 29 RBIs and a .325 average in 36 career postseason games.

At 23 years, 31 days, Cole was the youngest NL pitcher to start Game 5 of a division series and the fifth-youngest NL pitcher to start a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS.

Counting the postseason, Cole didn't allow a homer in six straight starts. That ended when Freese connected for a 2-0 lead in the second.

"The pitch to Freese, I did a good job with it," Cole said. "Hey, that's the way it goes sometimes. You can't dwell on it, you've just got to keep going and keep making pitches."

NOTES: Freese's 29 RBIs are by far the most in the majors the last three seasons, with Miguel Cabrera second at 19. ... Lou Brock, clad in a red sport coat worn by all the Cardinals' Hall of Famers, bounced the ceremonial first pitch, with pitcher Joe Kelly making a nice scoop. ... Josh Young, in town for the musical "Evita", sang the national anthem. ... It was the 24th meeting between the teams this season, with each team winning 12 times. "That's a stat," Hurdle said, "that goes by the wayside."

Wainwright scattered eight hits in his second dominant win of the division series, coming through for the Cardinals in a winner-take-all Game 5. St. Louis gets to stay at home to open the NLCS against the well-rested Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

"I wanted it bad. It's probably the most nervous I've ever been," Wainwright said. "I don't get a whole lot of nerves when I pitch. Before I pitched today, I was pretty nervous."

By ending Pittsburgh's storybook season, the Cardinals improved to 8-1 when facing postseason elimination the past three years. They also won Game 5 of the NL division series in Washington last year — even though Wainwright got rocked — and at Philadelphia in 2011.

Freese homered in the second inning off rookie Gerrit Cole, and Adams connected in the eighth against reliever Mark Melancon to make it 5-1. Pete Kozma added an RBI infield single, and Wainwright finished it off by striking out Pedro Alvarez with two on.

"I'm just so fired up for this team and this city right now," Wainwright said. "Cardinal fans were rockin' today and I'm just fired up to be here."

Alvarez became the first major league player with an RBI in his first six postseason games on a fluke hit that caromed off first base in the seventh. But the Pirates, who stopped a record streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons this year, were held to one run in each of the final two games of their first playoff appearance since 1992.

"We were able to take a huge step forward this year in restoring the pride and the passion of the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization," manager Clint Hurdle said, "and rebonding our city with a ball team."

Despite their charming turnaround and a victory over Cincinnati in the NL wild-card game, the Pirates haven't won a postseason series since the 1979 World Series.

Wainwright was helped by three double plays — two when Pirates runners strayed too far on line drives. The right-hander struck out six and walked one in a 107-pitch complete game.

"Every time we turned around, Wainwright got in the way tonight," Hurdle said. "We were able to be — the at-bats were better, the approach got better, but he kept making pitches. The last two games they kept us off the plate."

Sidelined with an arm injury when the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series, Wainwright threw seven innings of three-hit ball to beat Pittsburgh 9-1 in the series opener.

He is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and four saves in 15 career postseason games, including six starts. As a rookie closer in 2006, he helped the Cardinals win the World Series.

"It's hard not to think back about what happened in Game 5 last year. I just wanted to prove I could go out there and be a good playoff pitcher," Wainwright said.

The 23-year-old Cole beat the Cardinals with an impressive effort in Game 2. They got to him early this time even though his fastball hit 100 mph in the first inning against Matt Holliday.

Freese made the kid pay for a full-count walk to Jon Jay with two outs in the second, lining a 1-2 pitch into the visitors' bullpen in left.

The Pirates had the bullpen up in the fourth after Yadier Molina's infield hit and a throwing error put runners on second and third. Cole gave up just three hits over five innings, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

Freese struggled this season to overcome a back injury in spring training and had nine homers and 60 RBIs. But just like teammate Carlos Beltran, he's an October star with seven homers, 29 RBIs and a .325 average in 36 career postseason games.

Adams' power hitting helped the Cardinals overcame a mid-foot sprain to cleanup man Allen Craig in early September and he hammered a first-pitch fastball from Melancon well over the right-field wall for his first RBIs of the series.

The Pirates scratched out their lone run on two infield hits and the single by Alvarez that looked to be a harmless inning-ending groundout before it hit the bag.

Freese was a hometown hero in 2011, both the NLCS and World Series MVP. He singlehandedly got the Cardinals to Game 7 of that World Series against Texas with a two-run triple with two outs and two strikes in the ninth and then ended Game 6 with a leadoff homer in the 11th.

"He's a stud. He's a big-time player at big-time moments," Wainwright said. "And that's what we expect of him and that's what he continues to deliver."

The snapshot moment from the title run came when Freese joyously flung his helmet between the legs a few steps from the celebration waiting at the plate.

At 23 years, 31 days, Cole was the youngest NL pitcher to start Game 5 of a division series and the fifth-youngest NL pitcher to start a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS.

Counting the postseason, Cole didn't allow a homer in six straight starts. That ended when Freese connected for a 2-0 lead in the second.

Starling Marte robbed Matt Carpenter of a hit with a diving catch near the left-field line in the third.

Neil Walker drew a one-out walk in the first off Wainwright, who issued just 35 walks in the regular season for third-best in the majors and none in Game 1, but went no farther. Carpenter was perfectly positioned at second base to snare a soft liner by Alvarez, flipping to first for an easy double play.

NOTES: Lou Brock, clad in a red sport coat worn by all the Cardinals' Hall of Famers, bounced the ceremonial first pitch, with pitcher Joe Kelly making a nice scoop. ... Josh Young, in town for the musical Evita, sang the national anthem. ... This was the 24th meeting between the teams this season, with each team winning 12 times.

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