Adam Wainwright opens his postseason with nine-K gem

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Adam Wainwright has closed for a World Series winner. He’s still looking to make it back to the Fall Classic as a starter.

Demonstrating even better control of his curveball than usual, Wainwright kicked off the Cardinals’ latest postseason run on a strong note Thursday, allowing three hits over seven innings and striking out nine in an 8-1 win over the Pirates. He improved to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 39 2/3 postseason innings. His K/BB ratio is an exceptional 49/6.

Wainwright has had some good luck and some bad in the postseason. Of course, he was exceptional in the closer’s role for the 2006 champs, pitching 9 2/3 scoreless innings and picking up four saves. However, in his lone start in 2009, he was denied a win matched up with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw after allowing one run in eight innings (Ryan Franklin blew the save). In 2012, he was bailed out after giving up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in a decisive Game 5 against the Nationals, as the Cardinals came back and won. They went on to lose to the Giants in the LCS despite a win from Wainwright in his only start.

Wainwright finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak, leaving him 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA. Thanks to Kershaw, he’ll again be denied a Cy Young Award — he is looking at a top three finish for the third time — but he might have the chance to get the better of the Dodgers ace later this month.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.