ST. LOUIS — The feel-good story of the baseball season ended Wednesday night, thanks to Adam Wainwright and the pressure-proof St. Louis Cardinals.
Wainwright went the distance on an eight-hitter for his second win of the National League Division Series, and St. Louis eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 in Game 5 at sold-out Busch Stadium.
David Freese and Matt Adams each jacked two-run homers for the Cardinals, who will host the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Friday. St. Louis is heading to its third consecutive NLCS.
The Pirates, making their first playoff appearance since 1992, led the series 2-1 after a 5-3 victory Sunday. However, their bats went mostly silent over the last two games, generating just two runs on seven hits.
Gerrit Cole, who stifled St. Louis in a 7-1 victory in Game 2, took the loss Wednesday despite yielding just three hits and two runs over five innings. He walked one and struck out five.
Wainwright, who shut Pittsburgh down in a 9-1 win in Game 1, didn’t have his best stuff or location over the first four innings but still faced just one batter over the minimum through six innings.
Three consecutive two-out, infield hits — the last by Pedro Alvarez — brought in Justin Morneau with the Pirates’ only run in the seventh.
Wainwright benefited from three double plays, including a controversial one to end the eighth. Starling Marte lined out to second baseman Matt Carpenter, whose throw to Adams at first appeared to be a hair late, but Jordy Mercer was called out by umpire Paul Nauert.
Adams then broke the game open with a towering, first-pitch blast off Mark Melancon after Matt Holliday’s one-out single. Pete Kozma added an RBI infield single to cap the scoring.
St. Louis jumped on top in the bottom of the second. Jon Jay drew a two-out walk, and Freese jumped on a hanging 1-2 slider from Cole, lining the ball into the Pirates’ bullpen in left field for a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals bid for more runs in the fourth. Adams singled to left with one out, and Yadier Molina reached on an infield single, with Alvarez’s wild throw into the seats besides the St. Louis dugout pushing both runners into scoring position.
However, Adams was easily nailed at the plate as he tried to score on Jay’s chopper to second baseman Neil Walker. Freese looked at an 0-2 fastball for called strike three, ending the rally.
Through the first five innings, Pittsburgh managed just one hit — Marlon Byrd’s leadoff single in the second. After Byrd’s hit, Wainwright retired 11 consecutive hitters.
NOTES: St. Louis won a Game 5 in the NLDS for the third year in a row. The Cardinals won 1-0 at Philadelphia in 2011 and 9-7 at Washington last year, scoring four runs in the top of the ninth. … Pittsburgh went 7-for-21 (.333) with runners in scoring position in the series, while St. Louis finished 5-of-27 (.185). … Former Cardinals OF Lou Brock, a Hall of Famer, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.