If there’s a team familiar with facing elimination in recent postseasons, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals.
St. Louis may like its chances of keeping its season alive this time based on its history against Charlie Morton.
The Pittsburgh Pirates can advance to the NL Championship Series Monday at home, but they have lost Morton’s last seven starts against the Cardinals.
Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead in this division series with a 5-3 victory Sunday. Andrew McCutchen reached base four times and scored twice for a Pirates team that has benefited from raucous crowds in going 2-0 at home this postseason.
“We’re continuing to surprise a lot of people, I believe. We’re continuing to show people that we’re not done, that we’re not just happy to be in the postseason,” McCutchen said. “We’re fighting to win a World Series.”
St. Louis went 6-1 in elimination games the previous two seasons and now tries to force a decisive fifth game at home Wednesday.
“It’s a must-win tomorrow for us,” said Carlos Beltran, who homered and drove in all three runs Sunday. “Hopefully, we can come here tomorrow, take care of business, win and go play the last game at home.”
Beltran figures to be among numerous Cardinals who should be excited to step into the batter’s box against Morton (7-4, 3.26 ERA), who is 2-9 with a 6.52 ERA in 14 starts against the Cardinals — including 0-6 with a 6.82 ERA in his last seven.
That poor history hasn’t dented the right-hander’s confidence entering his postseason debut.
“Anybody would like to believe that from failure you take something from it,” Morton said. “And I think that’s true with anybody, whether it’s a season or it’s a span of starts or it’s one start.”
Beltran is 6 for 15 off Morton, Jon Jay is 8 for 16, Yadier Molina is 8 for 19 and Matt Holliday is 8 for 25. The Cardinals, however, do not feel they have a secret formula for hitting Morton.
“We put together a game plan,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We take our successes and failures and learn from them from each individual pitcher and try to put a plan together to give us success for the next time.”
Another factor in the visitors’ favor is Morton’s 4.81 ERA in day games compared to his 2.62 mark at night.
The Cardinals could use more from Holliday and Jay, who have combined for one RBI in the series. Holliday is 2 for 12 and Jay is 2 for 10.
St. Louis, meanwhile, must slow down McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez. McCutchen is 7 for 13 in the postseason along with five walks while Alvarez is 4 for 10 in the series with two homers and four RBIs.
Matheny chose Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78) to start Game 4 over fellow rookie Shelby Miller, who led all rookies with 15 wins this year. Wacha last pitched Sept. 24, when his bid for a no-hitter was broken up by Ryan Zimmerman’s infield single with two outs in the ninth inning in a 2-0 victory over Washington.
This will be the 10th big league start for the right-hander, who has World Series experience — as a junior in college at Texas A&M two years ago.
“I wouldn’t really say whenever I was in college my junior year that I would ever have thought of this,” he said. “But I just look at it as an opportunity to take advantage of.”
He took full advantage of his lone start against Pittsburgh with seven scoreless innings in a 9-2 home win Sept. 8 in which Morton was charged with five runs before exiting with discomfort in his left foot in the second inning.