BY ERIC KNOPSNYDER
The Pittsburgh Pirates' path to the National League championship series got a lot more difficult, but they still are confident they can get there.
Monday's 2-1 home loss to the St. Louis Cardinals means the Pirates will have to win Game 5 on the road on Wednesday to advance from the division series.
Including the opening two games of the postseason series, the Pirates are 4-7 in St. Louis this season.
“We've won there before,” Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “We have to go there and get the job done. We would have liked to have gotten it here at home in front of our own crowd, but sometimes it doesn't go the way you want it to go. We still have another game to play, so just show up and be ready to go.”
The task will be made even more difficult by the fact that the Cardinals will have their ace, Adam Wainwright, on the mound. Wainwright held the Pirates to three hits and one run in seven innings in Game 1.
“He definitely is the type of starter that seems to get better as he goes throughout the game,” McCutchen said. “If we can jump on him pretty early, I think that will help us out a little bit. We've got to go out, stay within ourselves and try to win the ballgame.”
Right fielder Marlon Byrd, who was traded to the Pirates in August and made the postseason for the first time in his 12-year career, isn't ready to see Pittsburgh's playoff run end just yet.
“There's always fight in this team,” he said. “We still have one goal and that's to win the World Series. We've got to win (Wednesday) to make that happen.”
q q q
1-2 punch(less): The top of the Pirates batting order did next-to-nothing again on Monday. Leadoff hitter Starling Marte went 0 for 4 while No. 2 hitter Neil Walker was 0 for 3 with a walk.
Marte, who had two hits in the wild-card playoff game against Cincinnati, is now 1-for-15 in the division series. Walker also had two hits against the Reds, but is 0-for-16 against the Cardinals.
In the past two games at PNC Park, Walker grounded out to first base four times and struck out twice.
“I've shortened up and I'm doing what I can to get back to the middle of the field,” Walker said. “It's one of those things where I need to keep battling. It’s not the first time I've gone through stretches like this, but it's certainly no fun.”
Walker said some of the credit goes to the St. Louis pitching staff and catcher Yadier Molina, but he also shoulders the blame for his failures.
“I need to be better. That's plain and simple,” he said. “Yadier's a good catcher. He knows how to call a good game. They're pitching well. These are two very good pitching teams. It's not really a surprise that some guys have been held in check.”
One of those guys being held in check is Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. Carpenter, an MVP candidate who hit .318 with 55 doubles during the regular season, is 1 for 15 in the series.
q q q
Hit and none: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle tried to make something happen in the eighth inning. After Pedro Alvarez gave Pittsburgh its lone hit of the game, Russell Martin drew a one-out walk. Hurdle inserted Josh Harrison as a pinch runner and called for a hit and run with pinch-hitter Jose Tabata at the plate. Tabata swung and missed the pitch and Harrison was thrown out at second base.
“I didn't feel like my jump was too bad, but at the same time, hit and run, you've got to make sure he's going to the plate,” Harrison said of reliever Carlos Martinez.
Harrison came up short on his slide, something he said was due to his hand sticking in the PNC Park infield.
“A little wet field, slid, hand got stuck, but it's nothing,” he said. “You live with those chances you take. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.”
Eric Knopsnyder is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/eric_knopsnyder.