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Game 5 - Pirates at Cardinals

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The first winner-takes-all game of the Divisional Round happens in St. Louis on Wednesday night. The Cardinals and Pirates have traded two victories apiece as the two NL Central rivals play one more time for the right to play the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

After splitting a pair of games at Busch Stadium, the Pirates pulled in front with a 5-3 victory in Game 3, but the offense dried up in a Game 4 loss on Monday. Pittsburgh's offense racked up only one hit against Michael Wacha in a 2-1 defeat, setting up tonight's decisive Game 5 with both pitchers on the mound that have dominated in their first appearances in the series.

Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) shut down the Pittsburgh offense in the series opener, 9-1 as a $1.40 home favorite by scattering three hits and one earned run in seven innings of work. Wainwright struck out nine batters, while the Cardinals improved to 6-0 in his last six starts since September 7. The start of this hot streak came against Pittsburgh in a 5-0 shutout in early September, as the righty has allowed a total of five hits and one earned run in 14 innings of work.

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The St. Louis offense provided Wainwright with a healthy 7-0 advantage in the third inning of Game 1 thanks to a seven-run outburst. Carlos Beltran drilled a three-run homer as the Cards chased A.J. Burnett, who recorded just six outs in the loss. However, the Pirates' ship wasn't going to sink after that blowout defeat heading into Game 2.

Pittsburgh's season comes down to the right arm of Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA), as the former UCLA standout limited the Cardinals to two hits and one earned run in six innings of a 7-1 blowout in Game 2. Since the beginning of September, the Pirates have won all six of Cole's starts, including road underdog wins at Texas and St. Louis. In seven of Cole's last nine outings, the Pirates have limited their opponents to two runs or less, but that resulted in just a 5-4 record to the 'under.'

The first three games of this series finished 'over' the total, until Monday's 2-1 decision that obviously went 'under' the total. Five of the last six meetings at Busch Stadium have hit the 'over,' with the winning club scoring at least five runs each time.

The Cardinals have won seven of 11 home meetings with the Pirates this season, including three victories by Wainwright. St. Louis has been in this situation before, winning Game 5 of the NLDS each of the last two Octobers against Philadelphia (2011) and Washington (2012). Last season was perhaps the most memorable comeback in the elimination contest, as the Cardinals rallied from a 6-0 deficit to stun the Nationals, 9-7 to advance to the NLCS.

The Pirates were last in this scenario back in 1992, when Pittsburgh fell in walk-off style to Atlanta on the famous Francisco Cabrera single against Stan Belinda to score the fleet-of-foot Sid Bream and push the Braves into the World Series. Pittsburgh has been on fire recently as a road underdog, posting a 7-1 record since getting swept at St. Louis in early September.

St. Louis is listed as a $1.60 home favorite, while the total is set at 6 ½. This elimination contest can be seen on TBS starting at 8:00 PM EST.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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