The Cardinals are moving on to the NLCS after beating the Pirates 6-1 last night. Adam Wainwright went the distance for the Cards, giving up one run on eight hits, and some are calling it a “career defining” performance. But Wainwright got some help before Game 5 — from the Pirates themselves.
Wainwright pitched Game 1 of the series (a 9-1 Cards win) and on Tuesday, Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen talked about how he’s found success against him (he’s a .419 hitter lifetime versus Wainwright):
“I think the difference in (Game 1) was we had a lot of swings and misses out of the zone on the curveball,” McCutchen said. “If we just let those go, it could have been a different ballgame. That was a difference maker for his outing.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also discussed his team’s approach for Game 5:
“What I’d like to do is share my game plan with you, so you can get it out there before Wainwright takes the mound. I don’t know how beneficial that might be for us. We have got some things we might try. We have to get pitches to hit, we have to lay off the breaking ball down, and then we’ll see what we can draw up in the dirt moving forward.”
For the second time in two days, baseball guys tell the media something they should have just told the team. The Pirates instead revealed the game plan — lay off the breaking balls — and Wainwright admitted that he took advantage, knowing he’d have to throw his curveballs for strikes.
And to his immense credit, he did: He threw more curveballs last night than he has in any other start over the last five years, and he threw 74 strikes out of 107 total pitches. He executed fantastically, scattered the Pirates hits over all nine innings and remained in complete control the whole time. Good for him.
But we’ll never know how things might have turned out if the Pirates hadn’t given him a blueprint to beat them. Perhaps that’s a sign of a team that isn’t used to the postseason spotlight? Regardless, the Pirates are going home and the Cardinals will host the Dodgers on Friday.