Louis Cardinals rode the brilliant pitching of Adam Wainwright to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 and clinch the National League Division Series on Wednesday.
The Game Five victory thrilled the handkerchief-waving home crowd at Busch Stadium and lifted the Cardinals into the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which starts in St. Louis on Friday.
David Freese, a key player in the Cardinals' 2011 World Series triumph, crushed a hanging slider over the fence in left for a two-run homer off Pittsburgh's rookie starter Gerrit Cole in the second inning to open the scoring, and an RBI-single by John Jay in the sixth made it 3-0.
Wainwright sailed along through six innings, giving up just two hits and one walk, but Pittsburgh broke through in unconventional fashion in the seventh, stringing together three infield hits in a row to cut the Cardinals lead to 3-1.
Wainwright went the full nine innings, giving up eight hits and just the one run.
St. Louis removed any suspense in the eighth when first baseman Matt Adams followed a Matt Holliday single with a towering blast deep into the right-field seats off reliever Mark Melancon and the sea of red-clad fans began their celebration as the Cards tacked on another run for good measure.
It was a disappointing end for the wild card Pirates, who were in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.