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Wacha pitches gem as Cards stay alive

Updated: 2013-10-09 07:46
By Reuters in Pittsburgh ( China Daily)

Rookie pitcher Michael Wacha rose to the occasion with another gem for the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Monday to force a decisive fifth game in their National League Division Series.

Wacha, who came within one out of hurling a no-hitter in the regular season finale against the Washington Nationals, did not allow a hit until the eighth inning of a tension-packed pitchers' duel at PNC Park.

"I did a lot of gushing about him before and everyone sees why. I don't think you could put a kid in a tougher spot," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said about putting the 22-year-old into an elimination game for the top-seeded Cardinals.

"He's just got a knack for getting up there, very businesslike, and getting the job done."

 Wacha pitches gem as Cards stay alive

St. Louis Cardinals starter Michael Wacha reacts after striking out Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte to end the sixth inning in Game 4 of their National League Division Series on Monday. The Cardinals won 2-1 to even the best-of-five series 2-2. Chris Lee / St. Louis Post-Dispatch / AP

The Pirates had only one hit in the game, while the Cardinals managed just three hits off Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton and three relievers -but one of them was a two-run homer by Matt Holliday in the sixth.

The only hit Wacha yielded was a home run to third baseman Pedro Alvarez that cut the lead to 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the eighth. After a walk to Russell Martin, Carlos Martinez came on in relief to end the inning.

Rookie closer Trevor Rosenthal entered to pitch the ninth and issued a two-out walk to Neil Walker before retiring Andrew McCutchen on a pop out to second to close out the victory.

Wacha struck out nine and walked two batters in a sensational MLB postseason debut.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was thoroughly impressed by Wacha, who routinely hit 97 mph (156 kph) with his fastball to set up the rest of his nasty arsenal.

"The whole package," Hurdle said in admiration. "Fastball, velocity obviously there.

"The change-up is a very, very good pitch for him. The curve ball he sprinkled in as well. The command, the location, the sharpness, all of it was there."

Wacha retired the first 15 batters he faced before losing the perfect game bid with a lead-off walk to Martin in the sixth.

The home run pitch in the eighth to Alvarez, who tied for the National League lead in homers, came on a 3-1 pitch.

Including the near no-no against Washington, Wacha has issued just two hits to the last 54 batters he has faced.

"I was just trying to attack them," said Wacha, who credited the direction he received from standout catcher Yadier Molina. "Trying to stay locked in with Yadi, and it worked out pretty well."

Wacha said he drew on his previous outing in Monday's do-or-die game for the Cardinals.

"It helped a ton, just the confidence coming from that game and I was able to go back and watch the film. I was able to get the positives from that game."

(China Daily 10/09/2013 page24)