Cardinals ride young arms, Holliday's bat to victory in Game 4 -

Cardinals ride young arms, Holliday's bat to victory in Game 4

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) --  The Cardinals began the day 6-1 in elimination games since 2011. So when rookie Michael Wacha was tabbed to start Game 4, his tenth start of the year, perhaps the script was already written. 

The 22-year-old certainly didn't act unsure of his fate, tossing 7.1 innings of no-hit action and notching a win in his first ever postseason start. 

"I don't know if you could put a kid in a tougher spot," said Mike Matheny. "This place was loud, my ears are still ringing." Matheny called Wacha's performance impressive, and pointed to the early praise the staff had when they named him the Game 4 starter. "We did a lot of gushing about him before, now everybody sees why." 

Wacha was matched on the other side by Charlie Morton, at least early. Morton cruised through five, keeping the Cardinal offense in check. It wasn't until the sixth that Matt Holliday, on a 2-2 count, blasted a two-run shot to center field. 

Holliday accounted for two of the three hits by the Cardinals on the day. The other came from Pete Kozma, now 3-for-6 in the postseason.

Morton threw 12 first pitch strikes and struck out four before Holliday's blast chased him with two outs in the sixth after he had walked Carlos Beltran on four pitches.

The rookie pitcher for the Cardinals was harder to shake, keeping a perfect game into the sixth until he walked Russell Martin. After that no one saw a base until Pedro Alvarez crushed a ball more than 420 feet to right center in the eighth. Alvarez now has three homers in the series, the first player to do that against the Cardinals in the postseason since Carlos Beltran in 2006. 

After another walk to Martin, Wacha's day was done. He walked off the field to an ovation from PNC, carrying nine strikeouts and one hit with him. 

On the day, he fooled Pirates hitters into swinging and missing 15 times, and got ahead of 13 batters with a strike. 

His relief would somehow be even younger, as Carlos Martinez was called from the bullpen to finish the eighth against pinch hitter Jose Tabata. The Pirates also added pinch runner Josh Harrison for Martin in what would prove to be the most crucial at-bat of the game.  

Martinez fell behind to Tabata 2-1, and on the next pitch Harrison took off for second. Yadier Molina caught the pitch following a Tabata swing and miss, and gunned down Harrison as he dove head first into the base. 

The Gold Glover's throw took the air out of the fans, and one pitch later Tabata was down on strikes. Whatever may be said about Game 4's big plays, no moment was as pivotal as that two-pitch sequence. 

From there, it was another young pitcher charged with taking the Cardinals down the stretch in Trevor Rosenthal. The 23-year-old, the oldest pitcher on the day for St. Louis, threw 21 pitches in the ninth. He walked Neil Walker, and fell behind Andrew McCutchen 3-1 before finally ending the drama. 

"We threw three young pitchers out there in situations they weren't accustomed to, and they produced," said Matheny after the game. 

Now the Cardinals will turn to their oldest starter to give them an NLDS win in St. Louis. Adam Wainwright will be matched by Gerrit Cole Wednesday when the two square off in the deciding Game 5. 


JJ Bailey covers the Cardinals for and the BaseballStL app. Follow him on twitter @TheJJBailey and on @baseballstl_app for updates. 

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