(SportsNetwork.com) - The atmosphere inside PNC Park has been incredible this
postseason. It may get even crazier on Monday, as the Pirates try to win their
first postseason series in 34 years when they play Game 4 of the National
League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pittsburgh lost in the NL Championship Series three straight years from
1990-92 and hasn't advanced in a series since the "We Are Family" Pirates won
the World Series in 1979.
"You have to continue to earn your way here, especially late in the postseason
-- not much is given to you," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll have
an opportunity to go out at home and win a ballgame. Obviously if that
happens, we'll be in a much better place moving forward."
Pittsburgh grabbed the advantage in the best-of-five set on Sunday, as Pedro
Alvarez hit a go-ahead RBI single in a two-run eighth inning to carry the
Pirates to a 5-3 win.
Russell Martin also had an RBI single in the eighth after Carlos Beltran tied
the game for the Cardinals with his second home run of the series in the top
of the inning.
"Right now we're playing good baseball, pretty much like we have all year
long," said Martin. "So ... the confidence level is high. And the stakes
couldn't be any higher."
History appears to be on the side of the Pirates, as teams that have taken a
2-1 lead into Game 4 of a Division Series have advanced to the League
Championship Series round 35 times in 43 opportunities, 17 of 20 in the NLDS.
Among the three teams that came back from a 2-1 deficit in the NLDS: the 2011
Cardinals, who bounced back against the Phillies, winning Game 4 at home
before taking the series on the road.
"It's a must-win (game) for us," said Beltran, who continued his postseason
prowess Sunday. "Hopefully we can come here, take care of business, win and go
play the last game at home."
Beltran drove in all three runs on Sunday for the Cardinals and had tied the
game in the eighth with a solo home run. Beltran now has 20 RBI in 16 Division
Series games and his home run was his 16th in the postseason, moving him past
Babe Ruth and putting him in sole possession of eighth place on the all-time
It will be right-hander Charlie Morton's job to slow him down on Monday.
Morton worked his way back from Tommy John surgery to go 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA.
However, he got better as the year went on and was 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA over
his final 11 starts.
He also pitched to a 2.14 ERA over his last five starts at PNC.
"I've never seen him as confident as he's been this year," Hurdle said. "He's
pitched extremely well from time to time, given us some good games. The
confidence on the mound, standing on the rubber, is at a high for him."
Morton, though, struggled mightily against the Cards, going 0-2 with a 7.90
ERA in three starts. St. Louis has actually given him trouble his whole
career, as he is just 2-9 against it with a 6.52 ERA in 14 starts.
"Anybody would like to believe that from failure, you take something," Morton
said. "And I think that's true with anybody, whether it's a season or a span
of starts or it's one start. So there are things that I'm going to take from
it and I'm going to learn from, but I'm not going to try to reinvent the wheel
because I had a couple of bad games against them.
St. Louis, meanwhile, will turn to rookie Michael Wacha, who pitched to a 1.72
ERA in five September starts and came within one out of a no-hitter in his
final start back on Sept. 24.
"It's definitely been a crazy past year," Wacha said. "Whenever I came to
Spring Training this past season, the goal was to get up here to St. Louis and
help them win some ballgames. So I wouldn't really say whenever I was in
college my junior year that I would ever have thought of this. But I just look
at it as an opportunity to take advantage of. I'm really excited about being
able to pitch in the postseason."
Wacha actually got the better of Morton back on Sept. 8 when he tossed seven
scoreless innings to get the win.
Pittsburgh narrowly won the season series, 10-9.
St. Louis is 3-8 at PNC Park this year.
The Sports Network