Pirates face Game 5 on the road

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates let a great opportunity slip away, and now they face a huge obstacle if they want to continue their magical season.

“We didn’t say it was going to be easy,” Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said after Monday’s 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

The Pirates had a chance to win the best-of-five series at home at PNC Park, but instead they nearly fell victim to dubious baseball history. They were getting no-hit until the eighth inning by St. Louis’ Michael Wacha before Pedro Alvarez blasted a home run.

That turned out to be the only hit of the day for the Pirates, who now will have to win a decisive Game 5 on the road in St. Louis on Wednesday to advance.

“I don’t look at it as an obstacle,” Pirates closer Jason Grilli said. “It’s an opportunity. Because if we win we go to the next round.”

A record crowd of 40,493 turned out at PNC Park hoping the Bucs could win the series at home. But Wacha was masterful, and Matt Holliday’s two-run homer in the sixth inning off Charlie Morton put the visitors on top for good.

Now the Cardinals will have the home-field advantage for the decisive game, and they’ll have one of the best pitchers in baseball, Adam Wainwright, on the mound.

The Pirates will go with rookie Gerrit Cole, a 100 mph-throwing sensation who beat the Cardinals in Game 2 in St. Louis. Manager Clint Hurdle decided to pitch Cole instead of veteran A.J. Burnett, who was blasted by St. Louis in Game 1.

“I believe that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5,” Hurdle said of picking Cole.