ST. LOUIS -- That authoritative tone the Cardinals struck in Game 1 against Pittsburgh faded Friday into the deep sighs of a starter who saw his game slipping away and the hush of a lineup tranquilized by a hotshot rookie.
In a game as sketchy as Thursday's was precise with an offense as silent as Thursday's was rowdy, the Cardinals squandered home-field advantage to the Pirates with a 7-1 thud Friday at Busch Stadium in Game 2 of the National League division series. Through six sterling innings, rookie Gerrit Cole mystified the Cardinals in their first view at his high-ceiling, higher-octane talent. He struck out five, touched 100 mph and hurled the best-of-five series into a 1-1 tie.
Less than 24 hours after the Cardinals played what they universally called a "clean" game, their defense became raggedy and starter Lance Lynn vulnerable in front of a packed noon-start crowd of 45,999.
"We won a decisive Game 1. They won a decisive Game 2," Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter said. "They did exactly what we did to them. It all went right for them. Thursday was a great game for the Cardinals. (This) was a great game for the Pirates. ...
"All bets are off Sunday."
To win this series or bring it back to Busch Stadium for a Game 5 next week, the Cardinals must do what they couldn't do much this season -- succeed at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. The Cardinals were 3-7 at the Pirates' home and hit .227 there with no home runs. The Cardinals will turn to two first-time postseason starters for Games 3 and 4 -- Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha, respectively. On Sunday, the Bucs will start Francisco Liriano, who has yet to lose the Cardinals.
What a difference a day makes.
"People talk about momentum," third baseman David Freese said as the Cardinals packed their bags for the charter flight Friday night to Pittsburgh. "It all starts over the following day."
Pittsburgh flipped the script on the Cardinals, quickly and decisively. A day after allowing 10 hits and getting only four, the Pirates strafed the Cardinals with 10 hits and allowed only four. The Pirates' defense that committed three errors Thursday watched as the Cardinals had at least a half dozen plays mishandled, only one ruled an error. The Pirates scored early and added on later, just as the Cardinals did the day before.
As ace Adam Wainwright did for the Cardinals with his dictating start in Game 1, Cole did for the Bucs with a fierce fastball and better-than-advertised control of offspeed pitches.
"He kept attacking them and made sure they were going to beat him with the bat," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "They weren't going to beat him any other way, and he had good enough pitches that that really didn't happen."
The first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole made 19 starts for the Pirates this past season, but not one against the Cardinals. Known for struggling against pitchers they've never faced, the Cardinals turned to scouting reports and film to learn Cole's tendencies. Video can mislead. In September, 18 of Cole's 39 strikeouts came on curveballs. He didn't throw one until the fourth inning. Carpenter studied how Cole attacked lefthanded hitters and saw most of them go fishing for offspeed pitches out of the zone. Carpenter saw at most six offspeed pitches in his three plate appearances against Cole. Five were strikes.
"Going into this, my approach after watching film was make him throw strikes," Carpenter said. "His offspeed is primarily for chase. He doesn't have command of it, I thought. He threw a changeup down and away for a strike. He threw a slider for a strike. That was the difference."
Between Carlos Beltran's one-out double in the first inning and Yadier Molina's solo homer -- his first in a playoff game since 2006 in Game 7 against the Mets -- Cole retired 11 in a row. Through two innings, he had outs on five different pitches. He benefited from getting a feel for home-plate umpire Wally Bell's strike zone and exploiting the lower edges of it. Matt Holliday fumed at Bell in the fourth inning on a called strike toward his shins. In the sixth inning, Carpenter worked a full-count walk from Cole to bring Beltran to the plate.
Beltran saw eight pitches from the rookie, and then took a 98-mph fastball with a late bite for a called strike three. Beltran said he expected a different pitch.
Cole's 86th and final pitch got a groundout from Holliday to end the sixth.
The radar clocked the pitch at 100 mph.
"The guy has power stuff," Beltran said. "When you never faced a guy like that it's going to take you two, three at-bats to start having an idea what he's doing against you. Maybe those two, three bat-bats might be too late then in the game if they find a way to score early."
If there has been a unifying theme to the first two games of this NLDS it's that the team with the starter who commands early and the offense that strikes first wins. In other words: It's the postseason. Unlike Cole, Lynn had ample exposure this season to the opponent. The Cardinals' righty drew Game 2's start despite a 5.60 ERA in five starts vs. Pittsburgh this season. Manager Mike Matheny banked on Lynn's strong finish to the season with four consecutive quality starts. Another trend, however, held true.
In three consecutive playoff starts, Lynn has failed to finish the fifth inning, and he's allowed four runs in all three of them. The Pirates had a 3-0 lead on Lynn before he could escape the third inning. Pedro Alvarez had a role in all three -- scoring on Cole's RBI single in second, homering in the third -- but the Cardinals' defense played co-conspirator. Alvarez's double in the second inning carried past center field Jon Jay when he took an odd route to the ball.
"I should make that catch," he said. "That's a play I have to make."
Lynn heaved a sigh when the ball bounded over the wall for a ground-rule double. It was not the last time the defense faltered. In the seventh inning, an infield popup was not caught by Freese despite a collection of infielders in the area. Carpenter failed to turn a double play in the fifth that nearly led to more runs.
"We had some mishaps that ended up costing us more runs than what some of our pitchers deserved," Matheny said. "Not an excuse, but the ball traveled differently than probably any other day during the season, and we had some trouble making that adjustment. ... When you get teams at this time of year you've got to have all components of your game together. You start giving extra outs, it's going to catch up to you."
Said Lynn: "Four bad pitches. Four extra-base hits. That's what got me."
For the third consecutive October, the Cardinals are knotted, 1-1, after two games in the NLDS. Each of the previous two falls, they've won the division series in Game 5. It took Chris Carpenter's shutout to down Philadelphia in 2011 and a historic rally against Washington in 2012. Both of those wins were on the road. As much as the Cardinals' performance changed from one day to the next, their situation hasn't from year to year. They know it well.
"We're battle-tested," Carpenter said.
"It's a must-win game," Jay said.
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