ST. LOUIS -- Win-or-go-home scenarios are nothing new for St. Louis. The Cardinals have faced elimination in eight games since the 2011 postseason, and they have advanced in seven of them, a trend they hope continues against the Pirates on Wednesday in Game 5 of the National League Division Series (7 p.m. CT on TBS).
Manager Mike Matheny credits the team's consistent approach from Spring Training all the way to October as the catalyst for his players' propensity to step up in big situations.
"... Once you get to the stage that we're at now, you're not going to be surprised, you're not going to be shell-shocked, and you're not going to be wondering what you need to do, because you've been practicing it, you've been mastering your craft," Matheny said. "I think that philosophy is easy to talk about, but it's hard to put into play. You need veteran leadership from our pitching staff, from our position players, to be able to put that into play where guys can see it.
"… It comes down to execution, which we all know, but I believe you have a better shot at doing it on a consistent basis if you take that route all season."
When the Cards won the World Series in 2011, they played four games in which they could have been eliminated, winning Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS, then Games 6 and 7 of the World Series. Last season, they kept their championship hopes alive through Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, fending off elimination first in the inaugural NL Wild Card Game in Atlanta, then once more in Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington.
This year, the Cardinals have already extended their season with Monday's Game 4 victory in Pittsburgh, and they will look to do so again Wednesday, when they send ace Adam Wainwright to the mound for the decisive Game 5 at Busch Stadium.
"We won a game yesterday in St. Louis fashion," first baseman Matt Adams said. "Our pitching staff handled their offense pretty well, and [Matt Holliday] came up with a big hit, bringing the confidence back home for Game 5. So we're pretty excited about that."
Yadi's guidance invaluable to Wacha, young arms
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' rookie pitchers have drawn much of the spotlight this season, earning acclaim for their poise and effectiveness on the mound in big situations. But they're always quick to divert any praise to the All-Star catcher working behind the plate.
"It's unbelievable working with [Yadier Molina]," said rookie right-hander Michael Wacha, fresh off his first postseason start and his second near no-hitter in as many games.
"Just the amount of trust that you have in that guy. Him knowing all the hitters. He does so much work watching film, watching these guys, and knows exactly how to pitch them. I just try and listen to him, really just attack the zone and make quality pitches to him, and it worked out pretty well."
Molina has guided a St. Louis pitching staff that featured 10 rookies in 2013 and finished with the fifth-best regular-season ERA in the Majors at 3.42. The first-year pitchers accounted for more than 30 percent of the Cards' 97 wins.
"You have an extra set of eyes back there and somebody with a sense, an uncanny sense, that he has to be able to pick [it] up if somebody is starting to head in a different direction," manager Mike Matheny said. "Yadi has that, and he has the guts to follow his instincts, so he is helping our young pitchers without question. … He's just special with what he's able to do back there."
Molina's presence was on display on Monday in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, when he handled a trio of rookie hurlers, all age 23 or younger, as they limited the Pirates to one run, one hit and three walks.
"He controls our staff," Wacha said. "It shows [in] how much these young guys just have the composure coming out there. And [Carlos Martinez] coming in a tough spot after me and then [Trevor Rosenthal] coming in there and closing the door down last night. It's been pretty unbelievable."
Cardinals confident facing Cole for second time
ST. LOUIS -- For the Cardinals, lack of familiarity is not an excuse for why they were shut down by Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole in Game 2, but having seen the rookie just five days prior certainly won't hurt their chances in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday (7 p.m. CT on TBS).
On Friday, Cole limited the Cards to just one run on two hits and a walk, while fanning five in his postseason debut, which was the first time he'd faced St. Louis in his career. The lone run came on a solo homer from Yadier Molina.
"I don't think we were uncomfortable the first time, he just had great stuff," Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams said. "... We'll just go out and see what he has working [Wednesday]. He had all three pitches working in Game 2, and we've just got to go out there and try to put together some good at-bats off him."
The rookie right-hander rolled into the postseason after a hot September. Cole posted a 4-0 record and a 1.69 ERA in five starts, allowing two or fewer runs in each. On Sept. 9, he tossed seven shutout innings against the Rangers, yielding just three hits.
Now, after witnessing Cole's stuff firsthand and reviewing tape of Game 2, the Cards are confident heading into Game 5 against the former No. 1 overall Draft pick.
"I think it's going to help, big-time," Adams said. "We're going to know how the ball is coming out of his hand, and we're going to see what his tendencies are, and we'll go from there."
Miller staying prepared in bullpen
ST. LOUIS -- Shelby Miller is on standby. After starting 31 games in the regular season, the rookie right-hander was relegated to the bullpen for the National League Division Series, and he is ready in his new role for whenever his name is called.
"I'm just pretty much taking it day by day," Miller said. "[I'm] keeping it simple, because you never know what days you're going to pitch. As a starter, you kind of have an idea of when you're going to pitch. And [as a reliever], I have no idea when I'm pitching, so my routine is about as simple as it can get, and I'll adjust it from there."
Miller has pitched just once since his last start on Sept. 25, and in the meantime, he has been throwing to keep his arm fresh. He tossed the eighth inning of Friday's Game 2 loss, surrendering a solo homer and striking out a batter.
The right-hander tossed 3 1/3 innings of relief in last year's NL Championship Series, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk in two St. Louis losses.
The Cardinals have not ruled out using Miller for a start should they advance beyond the NLDS. Miller estimated that he would need just one bullpen session to transition back into that role.
• Matheny said Tuesday that Lance Lynn will be available out of the bullpen for Game 5. The right-hander started Game 2 on Friday and could pitch on regular rest Wednesday.
• After making headlines as a surprise NL MVP Award candidate in the regular season, Matt Carpenter's hot bat has cooled in October. Carpenter is 1-for-15 with a walk and six strikeouts through four games, but Matheny believes it's just a matter of time before his All-Star second baseman finds his rhythm.
"What he's guilty of is caring too much and feeling like he's got to do something extra special, and that's a trap that many young players can fall into," Matheny said of the 27-year-old Carpenter. "He still is a young player, even though he's been such an incredible story this year, such a catalyst for our offense. But it doesn't all rest on his shoulders.
"... He's close, and it would be a good time tomorrow for him to start trusting himself."
• Left-hander Sam Freeman threw in the bullpen during Tuesday's optional workout. Though he was left off the active roster for the NLDS, he is continuing with his regular routine should he be needed if the Cardinals advance.
• Since the Dodgers-Braves NLDS concluded Monday, the start time for Game 5 of the Cards-Pirates series has been pushed back from 4 p.m. CT to 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.