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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Nobody's better than the St. Louis Cardinals when they can't afford to lose.
Adam Wainwright went all the way on the mound and St. Louis got two-run homers from David Freese and Matt Adams to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Wednesday night, advancing to the NL championship series for the third straight season.
Wainwright scattered eight hits in his second dominant win of the division series, coming through for the Cardinals in a winner-take-all Game 5. St. Louis gets to stay at home to open the NLCS against the well-rested Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
"I wanted it bad. It's probably the most nervous I've ever been," Wainwright said. "I don't get a whole lot of nerves when I pitch. Before I pitched today, I was pretty nervous."
By ending Pittsburgh's storybook season, the Cardinals improved to 8-1 when facing postseason elimination the past three years. They also won Game 5 of the NL division series in Washington last year - even though Wainwright got rocked - and at Philadelphia in 2011.
Freese homered in the second inning off rookie Gerrit Cole, and Adams connected in the eighth against reliever Mark Melancon to make it 5-1. Pete Kozma added an RBI infield single, and Wainwright finished it off by striking out Pedro Alvarez with two on.
"I'm just so fired up for this team and this city right now," Wainwright said. "Cardinal fans were rockin' today and I'm just fired up to be here."
Alvarez became the first player with an RBI in his first six postseason games on a fluke hit that caromed off first base in the seventh. But the Pirates, who ended a record streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons this year, were held to one run in each of the final two games of their first playoff appearance since 1992.
Despite their charming turnaround and a victory over Cincinnati in the NL wild-card game, the Pirates haven't won a postseason series since the 1979 World Series.
The 23-year-old Cole beat the Cardinals with an impressive effort in Game 2. They got to him early this time even though his fastball hit 100 mph in the first inning against Matt Holliday.
Freese made the kid pay for a full-count walk to Jon Jay with two outs in the second, lining a 1-2 pitch into the visitors' bullpen in left.
The Pirates had the bullpen up in the fourth after Yadier Molina's infield hit and a throwing error put runners on second and third. Cole gave up just three hits over five innings, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.
Freese struggled this season to overcome a back injury in spring training and had nine homers and 60 RBIs. But just like teammate Carlos Beltran, he's an October star with seven homers, 29 RBIs and a .325 average in 36 career postseason games.
Adams' power hitting helped the Cardinals overcame a mid-foot sprain to cleanup man Allen Craig in early September and he hammered a first-pitch fastball from Melancon well over the right-field wall for his first RBIs of the series.
The Pirates scratched out their lone run on two infield hits and the single by Alvarez that looked to be a harmless inning-ending groundout before it hit the bag.
Freese was a hometown hero in 2011, both the NLCS and World Series MVP. He singlehandedly got the Cardinals to Game 7 of that World Series with a two-run triple with two outs and two strikes in the ninth and then ended Game 6 with a leadoff homer in the 11th.
"He's a stud. He's a big-time player at big-time moments," Wainwright said. "And that's what we expect of him and that's what he continues to deliver."
The snapshot moment from the title run came when Freese joyously flung his helmet between the legs a few steps from the celebration waiting at the plate.
At 23 years, 31 days, Cole was the youngest NL pitcher to start Game 5 of a division series and the fifth-youngest NL pitcher to start a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS.
Counting the postseason, Cole didn't allow a homer in six straight starts. That ended when Freese connected for a 2-0 lead in the second.
Starling Marte robbed Matt Carpenter of a hit with a diving catch near the left-field line in the third.
Neil Walker drew a one-out walk in the first off Wainwright, who issued just 35 walks in the regular season for third-best in the majors and none in Game 1, but went no farther. Carpenter was perfectly positioned at second base to snare a soft liner by Alvarez, flipping to first for an easy double play.
NOTES: Lou Brock, clad in a red sport coat worn by all the Cardinals' Hall of Famers, bounced the ceremonial first pitch, with pitcher Joe Kelly making a nice scoop. ... Josh Young, in town for the musical Evita, sang the national anthem. ... This was the 24th meeting between the teams this season, with each team winning 12 times.
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - Libya's state news agency says Prime Minister Ali Zidan, abducted by gunmen at dawn, has now been freed.
Government Spokesman Mohammed Kaabar told the agency, LANA, that Zidan has been "set free" and was on his way to his office on Thursday.
The brief report gave no further information. Details were sketchy but it appeared Libyan forces had intervened in some way and that the abductors did not free Zidan voluntarily.
Hours earlier, Zidan was snatched by gunmen before dawn from a Tripoli hotel where he resides.
The abduction appeared to be in retaliation for the U.S. special forces' raid over the weekend that seized a Libyan al-Qaida suspect from the streets of the capital.d by an incident, even if it is a serious one," Zidan said at a press conference in Tripoli.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After two days of waiting, the Los Angeles Dodgers found out they will play St. Louis in the National League championship series.
The Dodgers worked out Wednesday just as the decisive Game 5 between Pittsburgh and St. Louis began. The team went through hitting sets with the game shown on the stadium's video boards, although there was no noticeable reaction as it progressed.
With the Cardinals winning 6-1, the Dodgers boarded buses to the airport for a flight to St. Louis.
"They're not going down easy," manager Don Mattingly said before the Cardinals won. "We felt like they were the best team in that division. They're a good mix of everything."
If the Pirates had won, the Dodgers would have unpacked their suitcases to stay home for the start of the series Friday.
Beating the Atlanta Braves to wrap up their division series in four games Monday night gave the Dodgers extra rest and time to reset their rotation. They took Tuesday off.
Zack Greinke will start Game 1 of the NLCS. Clayton Kershaw, who pitched on three days' rest Monday for the first time in his career, was set to go on regular rest in Game 2.
The team hopes the layoff will benefit rookie pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who struggled in Game 3 against Atlanta, giving up four runs and six hits over three innings.
"I felt he was a little nervous the other day," Mattingly said. "He did some things that he doesn't usually do."
Ryu has said he isn't injured, but the left-hander's performance wasn't as solid as what he showed during the regular season.
"He claims he felt fine and he continues to say he had no type of injury," general manager Ned Colletti said. "Everybody can have a bad start from time to time."
The Dodgers will announce a new 25-man roster for the NLCS. Mattingly said spots were still being discussed.
Andre Ethier was limited to pinch-hitting duty against the Braves, but if his left ankle has healed sufficiently, he could play the outfield. He did some hitting during the workout.
"I still have to sleep tonight to see if it responds tomorrow," Ethier said. "It feels good."
Hanley Ramirez got some rest for a bad back that has slowed him at shortstop, but not at the plate.
Mattingly goes into the next round not knowing if he will be managing the Dodgers next season. The club's new owners, including Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson, didn't guarantee his option for 2014 last offseason.
"I don't want to speak about my contract," he said. "It's not the right time."
Colletti said he wasn't worried about Mattingly's status, adding, "That will all resolve itself."
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Alexander Steen's slap shot with 21.1 seconds remaining beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and gave the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
Steen broke down the left side as part of a 3-on-1 rush. He kept the puck and let go a drive from just inside the circle that trickled through Crawford.
The Blues (3-0) matched their best start to a season, also done in the 1969-70 and 1993-94 campaigns. Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves in his third straight win. Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes also scored for St. Louis.
Patrick Kane scored for the third straight game for the Blackhawks, and Jonathan Toews had the other Chicago goal. Crawford made 31 saves.
Tarasenko gave the Blues a 1-0 lead when he beat Crawford with a wrist shot from the slot with 4:16 left in the first period.
Kane tied it with a power-play goal 1:17 later. Patrick Sharp's shot from the right circle trickled through to Kane at the left post, and he swatted the puck in.
In the second period, Backes put the Blues back in front at 8:37 when he redirected Alex Pietrangelo's shot from the right point into the net. But after Jaden Schwartz went off for hooking, Toews tied it 39 seconds later when he shoved a rebound past Halak.
NOTES: Kane's power-play goal was the first allowed by the Blues in 12 chances this season. The goal also ended Halak's shutout streak at 111 minutes, 52 seconds. ... The game featured a matchup of the two most successful coaches in Blues history. Current St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock entered with the best winning percentage of .676 (74-32-13). Chicago's Joel Quenneville is second at .598 (307-191-95).