By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports
ST. LOUIS - He is the Mr. October of the Midwest.
The name is David Freese, and no one takes over the postseason and sends teams packing for the winter like this dude.
Freese, the hero of the St. Louis Cardinals' 2011 World Series championship, made sure Wednesday night that that he'll have a shot at an encore.
Freese's two-run homer that shattered the Pittsburgh Pirates glass slipper, leading the Cardinals to a 6-1 victory that advances them to a date with the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Friday in the National League Championship Series.
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The Cardinals, who turn October into their own backyard playground, won the National League Division Series, 3 games to 2, in front of a sellout frenzied crowd of 47,231 at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals are now 8-1 in deciding games since 2006, leaving the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and now the Pirates in their wake.
And no one has been more responsible the past three years for wrecking the havoc than Freese.
Freese, who provided ace Adam Wainwright with all of the support he'd need with his two-run homer in the second inning, is Reggie Jackson in red. He has seven homers and 29 RBI in 36 postseason games since 2011, the most RBI by any player in baseball.
In the three deciding games at Busch Stadium, he is four-for-10 with two homers, one double, one triple, and seven RBI.
Freese has three home runs in games when the Cardinals face elimination.
Yes, this is his time. This is his stage. This is his month.
The only one sharing the spotlight with is Wainwright, who made sure that Freese's heroics would stand.
Wainwright, merely a spectator during the Cardinals' run in 2011 while recuperating from "Tommy John,'' surgery, is making up for lost time.
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He thoroughly stifled the Pirates' offense all evening long.
Wainwright, pitching a complete game, paralyzed the Pirates with his nasty curveball. He won the first and final games of the series, giving up just eight hits, two walks and two runs in 16 innings.
Oh, and if Wainwright actually needed any help, the Cardinals put on a magnificent fielding display, with shortstop Pete Kozma impersonating Ozzie Smith with two dazzling plays. Yet, just to prove he's human, he committed a mental blunder in the seventh inning that nearly turned disastrous when he bypassed a simple flip to second base for a forecourt enabling the Pirates to string together three infield hits and a run.
Otherwise, the Cardinals were flawless.
Would you expect anything less?
It belongs to the Cardinals, who are back in the NLCS for the third consecutive year, and eighth time since 2000, this time to bring on the Dodgers.
It will be the first time they faced one another in the NLCS since 1985, resurrecting memories of Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark homering off Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer.
This time, they'll be facing a Dodgers' team that's explosive, well-rested, and features the lethal 1-2 pitching duo of likely Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
The Cardinals won't have Wainwright available until Game 3.
Yet, that's a concern for another day.
The Cardinals had a party to host.
And for the Pirates, who got their first postseason party pass in 21 years, they may be returning a whole lot more frequently.
"I've admired our team's makeup,'' said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, a shoo-in for manager of the year honors. "I've admired our teams' preparation, their focus, dealing with real situations, dealing with frustration a little bit, dealing with the challenges the game can present.
"We are gaining so much experience on so many different levels. We are becoming tougher. These are lessons that will be put in play for years.''
For now, it's the Cardinals' time.
"It's not just my time,'' Freese said. "It's all of our time.''
Welcome to October.
It's the Cardinals.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale