CARDINALS 2, PIRATES 1
PITTSBURGH — Michael Wacha heard the chants. Then again, when 40,000 people clad in black scream your name relentlessly for the better part of three hours, it’s kind of hard to miss.
The goal was to rattle the St. Louis rookie, remind him that 22-year-old pitchers aren’t built to withstand the pressure of an elimination game.
One problem. Wacha doesn’t really do rattled. He doesn’t do pressure, either. The louder PNC Park grew, the more unhittable Wacha became.
“I kind of like it,” Wacha said. “It kind of gives me adrenaline. I kind of use it in my favor.”
And the Pittsburgh Pirates – not to mention anyone else he might face in the postseason – “kind of” need to get used to it.
Wacha took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning and the Cardinals showed off their October poise, edging the Pirates 2-1 Monday to force a winner-take-all Game 5 in the NL division series. St. Louis is 7-1 over the last three years with its season on the line.
“I think you take high talent and high character people that are motivated and support each other, and they don’t give up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “That’s a tough combination.”
One the Pirates are still trying to master. Pedro Alvarez hit his third home run of the series, connecting with one out in the eighth for Pittsburgh’s only hit in Game 4. It wasn’t enough for the Pirates to advance to the NL championship series for the first time in 21 years.
“I guess that’s why we play five,” star center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “We’ll be ready for the fifth one.”
Matt Holliday’s two-run homer off Charlie Morton in the sixth was all the offense required on a day the Cardinals tossed the first one-hitter in the club’s lengthy postseason history.
Trevor Rosenthal worked around a two-out walk in the ninth, retiring McCutchen on a popup to shallow center field for his first postseason save.
ATHLETICS 6, TIGERS 3
DETROIT — Turns out the Oakland Athletics don’t need a brilliant pitching performance to beat Detroit.
They can outslug the Tigers, too.
Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith homered for the Athletics, who chased Anibal Sanchez in the fifth inning Monday and defeated the Tigers 6-3 for a 2-1 AL division series lead.
Moss broke a 3-all tie in the fifth with a solo shot, and Smith’s two-run drive later in the inning ended Sanchez’s day. It was an impressive offensive show after the teams split two tense, low-scoring games in Oakland.
The A’s can close out the series Tuesday and reach the AL championship series for the first time since 2006 – when they were swept by the Tigers. Oakland will send rookie Dan Straily to the mound against Detroit’s Doug Fister.
“It was exciting for Brandon to get us on the board,” Smith said. “It was nice to score some runs and get back on top there.”
Sanchez, the American League’s ERA leader, allowed six runs – five earned – and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Smith has homered off Sanchez more than any other player, having now done it twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs.
There was activity in the Detroit bullpen before Smith’s homer Monday, and he made the Tigers pay for sticking with the struggling Sanchez.
“Sometimes he starts out a little slow, you figure he’s going to get it going,” Leyland said. “Today he just really didn’t get it going. He made a couple of real bad pitches the last inning he was out there to Moss and Smith.”
Jarrod Parker gave up three runs in five innings for Oakland, and the Tigers couldn’t rally against the bullpen.
RAYS 5, RED SOX 4
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jose Lobaton hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Tampa Bay Rays staved off elimination once again, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Monday night.
The Rays cut Boston’s lead in the best-of-five AL division series to 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday night, with Jake Peavy starting for the Red Sox against Jeremy Hellickson.
Tampa Bay took a win-or-go-home game for the fourth time in nine days.
The Rays did it with an unlikely stroke as Lobaton, who came off the bench late in the game, connected against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.
Lobaton’s shot wound up in the giant fish tank beyond the wall at Tropicana Field.
Evan Longoria’s two-out, three-run homer in the fifth off Clay Buchholz rallied the Rays to a 3-all tie.
Delmon Young, who has a penchant for driving home key runs in October, put Tampa Bay ahead 4-3 with an RBI grounder in the eighth.
The Red Sox tied it in the ninth against Rays closer Fernando Rodney. Dustin Pedroia’s RBI grounder made it 4-all.
Rodney got the win when Lobaton homered to right-center field.