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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Lance Lynn will start Game 4 of the NL championship series for the St. Louis Cardinals, perhaps strengthening his case when he earned the win in Game 1.

Rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller had also been under consideration. Miller warmed up early in Game 1 and manager Mike Matheny said Saturday he'd be available in the bullpen in Game 2.

Lynn worked the last two innings of the Cardinals' 3-2, 13-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He took the loss in Game 2 of the NL division series against the Pittsburgh and has failed to pitch five innings in any of his three career postseason starts the last two seasons.

Sunday, 13 October 2013 09:15
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- David Backes scored twice, and the unbeaten St. Louis Blues beat the slumping New York Rangers 5-3 on Saturday night.

The Blues, who haven't trailed at all this season, are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Derek Roy, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko added goals for St. Louis, which has outscored its opponents 19-7. Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves to improve to 4-0.

Ryan Callahan scored twice for the Rangers (1-4), and Brad Richards added his team-leading fourth goal. New York, which has four games left on a season-opening, nine-game trip, has lost three in a row by a combined score of 20-5.

St. Louis scored four times on its first 17 shots against backup goalie Martin Biron, who was making his first start of the season. Biron was pulled after the second period in favor of regular netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

Biron stopped 13 of 17 shots. Lundqvist allowed one goal on 17 shots.

The Blues won their first three games in 1969 and 1993, but had never won four in a row to start a season in their 47-year history.

Backes, who scored just six goals last season in the lockout-shortened campaign, already has four this season. He didn't notch his fourth last season until the Blues' 35th game.

Backes put St. Louis ahead 2-1 by beating Biron with a wrist shot at 5:11 of the second period. He pushed the lead to 4-2 later in the frame off a pass from T.J. Oshie.

Steen added three assists giving him a team-leading eight points - including four goals.

New York tied it 1-1 on Callahan's first of the season, but trailed the rest of the way after Backes scored his first. The Rangers' goal came during a 5-on-3 power play with 5.8 seconds left in the first period.

Callahan closed the gap to 4-3 with a power-play goal at 2:54 of the third. Tarasenko restored the Blues' two-goal lead with a power-play goal midway through the period.

NOTES: St. Louis is 27-6-5 against the Eastern Conference since the start of the 2010-11 season. ... Rangers LW Rick Nash missed his second consecutive game because of a head injury sustained Tuesday on a hit by San Jose's Brad Stuart. Stuart was suspended three games by the NHL. ... Lundqvist has beaten every NHL team except St. Louis. ... The Blues allowed their first third-period goal of the season. ... St. Louis is starting the season with five straight home games for the second time in team history.

Saturday, 12 October 2013 22:08
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matched against ace Clayton Kershaw, the only thing Michael Wacha lacked was a no-hit watch.

"He's becoming a guy a lot of teams wish they drafted," teammate David Freese said. "What he's done is remarkable, especially on this stage."

Wacha stared down a bases-loaded test in the sixth inning and pitched into the seventh, and the kids in the bullpen also were impervious to October pressure, keeping the Los Angeles Dodgers bats silent for the second straight day and winning 1-0 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the NL championship series.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words to describe him," said fellow rookie Kevin Siegrist, who got a big out to end the seventh. "It's kind of ridiculous how well he's done so far."

The Cardinals managed only two hits off Kershaw and the Dodgers, but Jon Jay's sacrifice fly set up by Freese's double and A.J. Ellis' passed ball in the fifth stood up.

The Dodgers' scoreless streak in the NLCS reached 19 innings after they averaged 6 1/2 runs in a four-game division series against Atlanta. Rookie fireballer Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth with a heater reaching 101 mph, fanning pinch-hitter Andre Ethier on three pitches to end it.

A day after outlasting Los Angeles 3-2 in 13 innings, the Cardinals moved two wins away from the World Series.

Game 3 is Monday at Dodger Stadium, with Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright facing rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers have already used their top two starters and have nothing to show for it.

"We don't get too far ahead of ourselves," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We don't deny also what's happened here the last two days.

"Those were two very good wins, two very tough wins when you face starters like that."

Hanley Ramirez and Ethier were out of the Dodgers' lineup with injuries after starting in the opener. Los Angeles missed a handful of opportunities, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position for a two-day total of 1 for 16. Star rookie Yasiel Puig struck out in all four of his at-bats.

"We had our chances," Kershaw said. "We had our chances, for sure. You've got to give a lot of credit to Wacha."

The teams may have been hindered by shadows creeping across Busch Stadium in a late-afternoon start, with lights providing no real help. Both also were no doubt fatigued, which might have shown on the crucial passed ball by Ellis that wound up resulting in an unearned run.

Wacha was nearly untouchable for the third straight start, allowing five hits with eight strikeouts and a walk in 6 2-3 innings.

The 22-year-old right-hander was one out away from a no-hitter in his last start of the regular season, losing it on an infield hit by Washington's Ryan Zimmerman. Wacha ignored a crowd chanting his name in Game 4 of the division series at Pittsburgh, holding the Pirates hitless for 7 1-3 innings to bring the series back home.

In 22 2-3 innings in his last three starts, Wacha has given up two runs on seven hits with 26 strikeouts and five walks.

The 6-6 Wacha struck out Puig and Juan Uribe with the bases loaded to end the sixth. Catcher Yadier Molina helped by making a couple trips to the mound.

"That was a game-changer right there," Molina said. "To get out of that inning was unbelievable."

Kershaw led off with a single, and runners were on second and third after second baseman Matt Carpenter slid in shallow right to glove Carl Crawford's infield hit but threw it away for an error trying to get a forceout at second.

Adrian Gonzalez was walked intentionally to load the bases and the Dodgers 4-5 hitters coming up. Puig struck out on a fastball in the dirt and Uribe had a feeble cut chasing a 1-2 pitch out of the zone.

Carpenter tripled on Kershaw's first pitch of the game but didn't budge when the lefty retired the next three on nine pitches.

The Cardinals had another runner at third with nobody out in the fifth after Freese doubled and advanced on a passed ball by Ellis, This time they converted on Jay's sacrifice fly to shallow left as Crawford's throw was well offline.

The previous pitch the Cardinals tried to squeeze in a run with the Dodgers infield playing in, but Jay fouled off a 1-1 pitch.

Kershaw worked six snappy innings, needing just 72 pitches. He gave up two hits and struck out five.

The majors' ERA leader had plenty left, too, but the Dodgers needed runs and manager Don Mattingly opted for pinch-hitter Michael Young after Nick Punto's two-out single in the seventh.

"I always want to stay in the game, but I understand where Donnie's coming from," Kershaw said. "I get it. We can't give up any more outs and Michael Young is one of the best players the last 10 years."

The Cardinals lifted Wacha for another stingy rookie. Siegrist, who had a minuscule 0.45 ERA in his debut season, threw a pair of wild pitches before getting Young on a flyout to end the seventh.

Relievers Randy Choate and Carlos Martinez pitched the eighth for St. Louis before turning it over to Rosenthal.

The Cardinals handed Kershaw two of his nine losses this season and have beaten him four consecutive times overall.

NOTES: SS Ramirez was a late scratch with sore ribs after getting plunked in the first inning of Game 1. Ethier has been slowed by a sore ankle. ... Carpenter has a hit each of the first two games after entering the NLCS in a 3 for 39 slump. ... Choate, the lone veteran reliever the Cardinals used in Game 2, has gotten two outs on four pitches in two appearances.

Saturday, 12 October 2013 21:09
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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Gary Pinkel said No. 25 Missouri won more than a second straight SEC road game when it upset No. 7 Georgia.

"I just think we earned a little more respect," Pinkel said. "The respect level just went up a couple notches."

Receiver Bud Sasser threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington in the fourth quarter after quarterback James Franklin left with a shoulder injury and Missouri held off Georgia's comeback attempt to beat the short-handed Bulldogs 41-26 on Saturday.

Pinkel said Franklin separated his right shoulder and expects the quarterback to miss at least one week.

Freshman Maty Mauk, who replaced Franklin in the fourth quarter, could start when Missouri (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) plays No. 17 Florida next week.

Missouri led by 18 points in the first half before Georgia (4-2, 3-1) cut the lead to 28-26 in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers answered the challenge with two late touchdowns, despite losing Franklin.

Missouri's first road win over a top 10 team since 1981 helped continue the Tigers' recovery from a 5-7 finish in 2012, their first in season in the SEC. The Tigers have scored 38 or more points in each of their six wins, including last week's 51-28 win at Vanderbilt.

"There is no question that one of the goals for this team is to get back to Missouri's winning ways," Pinkel said. "It is a big deal to them. ... They want to get back to competing for championships."

The Tigers ended Georgia's streak of 15 straight home wins.

After Franklin was taken to the locker room, Mauk threw a lateral to Sasser, who stopped and tossed a high, deep pass to the end zone for Washington. Washington, who outfought cornerback Damian Swann for the catch, had 115 yards and two touchdowns.

"I came in and everybody just told me to keep calm," Mauk said. "So I came in and got the plays to our guys. We executed well at the end. ... We scored when we needed to."

James Ponder's interception of Aaron Murray's pass with 4:25 remaining set up Henry Josey's 7-yard touchdown run to end Georgia's hopes.

Murray threw two interceptions and lost one of Georgia's two fumbles.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said turnovers helped decide the game.

"It was 4-0 on the turnovers," Richt said. "They did a really good job of securing the ball, and we didn't. You hear coaches say it over and over, but you can't win a game turning it over like that."

The Bulldogs had won four straight on the strength of a powerful offense, including 44-41 over LSU and 34-31 in overtime over Tennessee the last two weeks. Georgia's wave of injuries at tailback and wide receiver left Murray with inexperienced backups at the skill positions to keep pace against another high-scoring opponent.

Georgia almost filled a bench on its sideline with injured players who wore their red game jerseys over black warm-up pants. Among them was star tailback Todd Gurley (ankle).

After the game, Missouri players ran to edge of the Sanford Stadium hedges and celebrated their biggest SEC win yet with fans in the corner of an end zone.

Murray threw his second interception in the final minute. He completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns.

"We had plenty of chances to tie it up, but we just didn't execute," Murray said.

"We did a pretty good job of getting back in the game. We were within 2 points of tying it up but just couldn't quite get it done."

Franklin scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter and threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Washington in the second quarter.

Franklin completed 18 of 27 passes for 170 yards. Marcus Murphy had a 36-yard touchdown run for the Tigers.

Defensive end Michael Sam returned a fumble recovery 21 yards for a touchdown to give Missouri a 28-10 lead late in the second quarter. Murray fumbled when he was sacked by defensive end Shane Ray.

Georgia rallied as Murray threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Rantavious Wooten in the third quarter and 10 yards to Chris Conley early in the fourth quarter. Conley couldn't catch Murray's pass on the 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, leaving Missouri with a 28-26 lead.

Georgia was also without running back Keith Marshall (right knee) and three of its best receivers. Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas filled in at tailback.

Georgia starting safety Tray Matthews, who hurt his hamstring in practice Tuesday, also did not play.

The loss of so many top threats on offense was the big news of the week for Georgia, but season-long problems on defense were just as glaring against Missouri. The Bulldogs began the day 12th in the SEC in pass defense and last in the league with its average of 32.2 points allowed.

Missouri almost matched that total in the first half.

Georgia needed help from three Missouri penalties, including two offside calls, for its only touchdown drive of the first half which ended with Murray's 7-yard scoring pass to Douglas late in the first quarter.

Saturday, 12 October 2013 21:07
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No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC), 11am (KTRS)

Line: Georgia by 9

Series Record: Georgia leads 2-0

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Georgia lost wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and tailback Keith Marshall to season-ending knee injuries in last week's 44-41 overtime win at Tennessee and could be without tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) for a second straight week. Undefeated Missouri is trying to validate a strong start after last week's 51-28 win at Vanderbilt.

KEY MATCHUP

Missouri QB James Franklin vs. Georgia secondary. Franklin, a senior, threw four TD passes against Vanderbilt, giving him 13 for the season with only three interceptions. Georgia, which ranks 12th in the SEC in pass defense, likely will start two freshmen defensive backs, free safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Shaq Wiggins.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Georgia: RB J.J. Green. After Marshall left last week's game in the first half, Green took the lead role in the running game. The freshman had 17 carries for 129 yards, showing for the first time his potential to be more than a complement to Gurley and Marshall.

Missouri: DE Michael Sam. The senior has recorded three sacks in back-to-back games against Arkansas State and Vanderbilt. He has 10 tackles for losses and has forced a fumble.

FACTS & FIGURES

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray needs 325 yards to top Tim Tebow's SEC record for total offense (12,232) in a career. ... Missouri is making its first visit to Sanford Stadium. ... Georgia won 41-20 at Missouri last year in the Tigers' first SEC game. ... Missouri has matched its win total from 2012. This is the Tigers' fifth 5-0 start in coach Gary Pinkel's 13 seasons. ... Missouri has caused a turnover in 35 consecutive games, the longest streak in the BCS. ... Georgia LB Ramik Wilson leads the SEC with 52 tackles, including 15 at Tennessee. ... Missouri ranks second in the SEC, behind Texas A&M, with 46.6 points per game. Georgia is fourth at 39.8 against a schedule that has included three top 10 teams. ... Georgia has played 14 true freshmen. Ten freshmen have played on defense, including five who have started at least one game.

Saturday, 12 October 2013 09:22
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Everything Carlos Beltran does looks effortless. St. Louis Cardinals teammates joke that it's like he's from another world.

"It's like you've got to put a mirror under his nose to check if he's breathing, he's so calm, cool and relaxed," leadoff man Matt Carpenter said after Beltran delivered another big October performance in a 3-2, 13-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

"It's like jazz music is playing in his head. He's just so even-keel, nothing gets to him."

Beltran hit a tying, two-run double in the third inning. Then he took charge on defense, calling center fielder Jon Jay off the ball before throwing out a runner at the plate from shallow right field in the 10th to keep it even.

"I felt I was going to have a better angle so I called for the ball about five or six times," Beltran said. "And Jon Jay was able to hear me and leave it up to me."

Well past midnight at Busch Stadium, but with most of a sellout crowd still waiting expectantly, Beltran singled into the right-field corner with one out against Kenley Jansen to finish a game that took 4 hours, 47 minutes.

Neither team had much time to exhale before Game 2 Saturday afternoon, scheduled to start 14 1/2 hours after Daniel Descalso crossed the plate. It features a marquee pitching matchup - major league ERA leader Clayton Kershaw vs. Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha, who's flirted with no-hitters his last two starts.

"If the rest of this series is like this game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, "it should be a pretty good one."

Beltran has 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBIs in 40 career postseason games, and is hitting .345. He's also scored 42 runs and stolen 11 bases while with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals.

The eight-time All-Star is hoping this year ends with his first trip to the World Series.

It was the longest postseason game for the Dodgers since the 1916 World Series, when Babe Ruth pitched all 14 innings to lead the Boston Red Sox past Brooklyn.

This one also tied for the longest series opener in postseason history, according to STATS. Boston and Cleveland played 13 innings in their 1995 AL division series, with the Indians winning 5-4.

"You work so hard in the offseason, spring training and regular season to get to this point and we're fortunate to be here," Beltran said. "That's a preview. Today was a good game and that's it's all about."

Descalso had a pinch-hit single with one out in the 13th off rookie Chris Withrow, and Matt Carpenter walked. Jansen, usually the Dodgers' closer, relieved and Beltran won it with his hit on a 3-1 count.

"I tip my hat to Carlos Beltran," Jansen said. "He's a pro."

The Cardinals are unbeaten in extra-inning postseason games since dropping the opener of the 1946 World Series to Boston. That said, they're just 4-0 in that span.

Winning pitcher Lance Lynn strengthened his case for a possible Game 4 start with two scoreless innings. Withrow took the loss.

The Dodgers had two on in the ninth, 10th and 11th and came up empty. They stranded 11 overall while going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. They averaged 6 1/2 runs and batted .333, best ever in an NL postseason series, while taking a four-game division series from the Braves.

Dodgers starter Zack Greinke struck out 10 in eight innings, allowing just four hits. Cardinals starter Joe Kelly left after the sixth with the score 2-all.

Mark Ellis tripled with one out in the Dodgers' 10th. After Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, Michael Young followed with a fly ball to shallow right field that Beltran caught.

Beltran made a strong, one-hop throw home and Ellis crashed into Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina.

Molina held the ball, but it was hard to tell whether he actually tagged Ellis. On such plays, however, umpires almost always give the benefit to the catcher and call the runner out.

"You've got to go, that's what you do," Ellis said. "They made a great throw, Yadi made a great tag."

The Dodgers put runners at first and second with two outs in the 11th against John Axford. Pinch-hitter Nick Punto, who played for the Cardinals on their 2011 World Series championship team, struck out to end the inning.

Young, in the game after cleanup man Adrian Gonzalez was pulled for a pinch-runner in the eighth, got another chance in 12th. With runners on first and second, he grounded into an inning-ending double play against Lynn.

Beltran's double in the third barely eluded center fielder Andre Ethier.

Slowed by a sore ankle, Ethier made his first start in this postseason. He appeared to mistime his jump just a bit as he banged into the padded wall.

Beltran's two-run double in the third was the only damage against Greinke. He fanned Carpenter, Matt Adams and Pete Kozma twice each and struck out the side in the fifth.

The teams are postseason foes for the first time since a Dodgers sweep in their 2009 division series. It's their first NLCS matchup since 1985, when the Cardinals won in six games behind game-breaking homers from Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark off Tom Niedenfuer.

Kelly left on his own terms after six innings in a 2-all tie, hurt only by Juan Uribe's two-run single in the third. Counting multiple efforts, the Cardinals had five relievers warm but the Dodgers were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Kelly got all three outs on strikeouts in the first. The Dodgers left runners on second and third when Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig fanned.

Kershaw started the division series clincher against Atlanta on three days' rest Monday and will be on regular rest in Game 2. The left-hander said the media made a big deal of short rest, but not he nor Mattingly.

Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire got a nice hand when he lined up along the third base line during introductions. So did two other former Cardinals, utility men Skip Schumaker and Punto. There was some booing for Greinke, who referred to Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter as a "phony" when Greinke was with the Brewers.

 

NOTES: Carpenter, who entered in a 1-for-29 slump, walked and scored on Beltran's double. ... Greinke's career best is 15 strikeouts for the Royals on Aug. 25, 2009, against Cleveland. ... It was the longest NLCS game since the New York Mets beat Atlanta 4-3 in 15 innings on Robin Ventura's "grand slam-single" in 1999.

Saturday, 12 October 2013 09:18
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Major League Baseball has released the specifics of the upcoming NLCS.

The Cardinals and Dodgers will kick off the series tomorrow night at Busch Stadium at 7:37. Joe Kelly gets the start for the Redbirds and Zach Greinke for the Dodgers. Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright will start games two and three for the Cards.

Here is the schedule for the rest of the series:

Game 2: Los Angeles at St. Louis - Saturday - 3 p.m.

Game 3: St. Louis at Los Angeles - Monday, Oct. 14 - 7 p.m.

Game 4: St. Louis at Los Angeles - Tuesday, Oct. 15 - 7 p.m.

Game 5*: St. Louis at Los Angeles - Wednesday, Oct. 16 - 3 p.m.

Game 6*: Los Angeles at St. Louis - Friday, Oct. 18 - 7:30 p.m.

Game 7*: Los Angeles at St. Louis - Saturday, Oct. 19 - 7:30 p.m.

 

Thursday, 10 October 2013 13:47
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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."

Wednesday, 09 October 2013 22:29
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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).

Wednesday, 09 October 2013 22:26
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pushed to the brink, the St. Louis Cardinals and rookie Michael Wacha pushed back.

Now it's back to Busch Stadium with a trip to the NL championship series on the line for baseball's most resilient team and the club they've been unable to shake for the better part of six months.

Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth and the Cardinals avoided elimination with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday in Game 4 of the NL division series to set up a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Adam Wainwright will start for the NL Central champion Cardinals against Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole. Both pitchers won earlier in the series.

"It's going to be fun," Carlos Beltran said. "We're going back home, we have our best pitcher on the mound - our ace - and I really like our chances."

So do the Pirates.

Manager Clint Hurdle opted for Cole rather than veteran A.J. Burnett after the Cardinals shelled Burnett for seven runs in two-plus innings in Game 1.

"We have one game to win," Hurdle said. "I believe that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5."

Something the Pirates failed to do at home in front of a record crowd at PNC Park anxious to celebrate with champagne for the second time in a week. Pittsburgh popped the bubbly after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game last Tuesday. This time, the bottles remained corked after Wacha pitched like a guy who'd been in the majors for years, not months.

"He was unhittable, actually," Beltran said. "He gave us an opportunity to win. We scored just two runs, but you just had the feeling it was going to be enough."

St. Louis improved to 7-1 over the last three years with its season on the line when Rosenthal got Pittsburgh MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen to pop out to second with one on in the ninth.

"I think you take high talent and high character people that are motivated and support each other, and they don't give up," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a tough combination."

One the Pirates are still trying to master.

Pedro Alvarez hit his third home run of the series, connecting with one out in the eighth for Pittsburgh's only hit. It wasn't enough for the Pirates to advance to the NL championship series for the first time in 21 years.

"I guess that's why we play five," McCutchen said. "We'll be ready for the fifth one."

The Pirates weren't quite ready for the fourth one, not with the way Wacha was dealing. He walked two and struck out nine before giving way to the bullpen in the eighth.

The Cardinals finished with only three hits but only really needed one: Holliday's two-run homer in the sixth off Charlie Morton.

"You could go back and look at pitches over and over again and second guess yourself," Morton said. "I don't know where that pitch was. It was outer third somewhere, thigh-down and he went out and got it, he's strong."

So was the 6-foot-6 kid on the mound, the one barely a year removed from a standout college career at Texas A&M. Wacha didn't permit a runner until walking Russell Martin leading off the sixth.

Wacha nearly no-hit the Washington Nationals in his last start on Sept. 24, surrendering only an infield single by Ryan Zimmerman with two outs in the ninth.

Working so quickly the Pirates never had time to get settled, he breezed through Pittsburgh's revamped lineup like he was in extended spring training. Mixing his fastball and changeup masterfully, Wacha overwhelmed the Pirates from the moment he stepped onto the mound.

"He went out and hit his spots and it seemed like everything we were hitting, we were just missing, just missing," McCutchen said.

Wacha's only mistake came in the eighth when he fell behind 3-1 to Alvarez and the third baseman hit a 93 mph fastball at the knees onto the concourse in right-center.

The jolt, however, faded when Molina nailed Harrison at second minutes later to set up a 24th - and final - meeting between two teams that have been shadowing each other all summer and into the fall.

While the Cardinals have the experience, the Pirates don't think it will be an advantage on Wednesday. They've been bucking history all year. One more night shouldn't be a problem.

"A lot of the guys in the clubhouse have never even been on a winning team, let alone the playoffs," Morton said. "I really think it's not about where we've been in terms of overall experience but where we are now. I think we've done a great job of that and staying in this thing level headed."

---

Follow Will Graves at HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/WILLGRAVESAP

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Tuesday, 08 October 2013 12:52
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Blues beat Blackhawks 4-3 in 3 OTs

Blues beat Blackhawks 4-3 in 3 OTs

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Alexander Steen scored at 26 seconds of the third overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks...

Source: Haith front-runner for Tulsa job

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Missouri coach Frank Haith is in position to replace Danny Manning at Tulsa.   A person with knowledge of the situation at Tulsa says Haith is ...

Wainwright's 2-hitter leads Cards past Nats 8-0

Wainwright's 2-hitter leads Cards past Nats 8-0

  WASHINGTON (AP) -- Adam Wainwright threw a two-hitter Thursday night for his seventh career shutout, chipped in at the plate with a double and single, and St. Louis b...

KELLY HURT AS CARDINALS LOSE TO BREWERS 5-1

KELLY HURT AS CARDINALS LOSE TO BREWERS 5-1

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals' 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday may prove more costly than one defeat in the NL Central standings. Cardinals starte...

Cards pitching shuts down Brewers again 6-1

Cards pitching shuts down Brewers again 6-1

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Shelby Miller struck out seven and allowed three hits over six innings, and Mark Ellis had two RBIs in his return from the disabled list to lead the St. Louis ...

Lynn, Cardinals snap Brewers' 9-game win streak

Lynn, Cardinals snap Brewers' 9-game win streak

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers' nine-game winning streak was snapped Monday night when Lance Lynn struck out 11 in seven innings and Jon Jay hit a three-run homer for t...

49ERS LINEBACKER ALDON SMITH ARRESTED AT AIRPORT

49ERS LINEBACKER ALDON SMITH ARRESTED AT AIRPORT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport after authorities said he became belligerent during a sec...

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