ST. LOUIS -- All season, David Freese's name has drawn some of the loudest cheers from the Busch Stadium crowds. Despite posting his lowest season batting average in his five-year career, Freese's popularity seemed slump-proof.
Freese's postseason heroics in 2011 -- a walk-off homer in Game 6 of the World Series -- have enshrined him as a hometown idol. And after Wednesday's 6-1 win over the Pirates in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, those cheers may get even louder.
Pittsburgh rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole put down the first five batters before Jon Jay worked an eight-pitch at-bat to draw a two-out walk in the second and give St. Louis its first baserunner. Freese then stepped into the box and launched a 1-2 pitch 383 feet into the Bucs' bullpen for an early 2-0 lead.
"It was big. It was obviously a great feeling," Freese said. "[This was] a frustrating year a little bit, but just to get this far and to get to the NLCS is awesome."
"I felt the curveball come off wrong," Cole said. "I just didn't get through it. It kind of slipped off my thumb. Truthfully, it wasn't one of those pitches you think is going to leave the park out of your hand. I thought I threw it so bad that he wasn't going to hit it. It might've hit him. But it just kind of broke down into that sweet spot that he likes, middle in. He just got the head out and did a great job with it.
"I don't want to take any of the credit away from them, saying I made a bad pitch, because they still have to capitalize. He put a [heck] of a swing on the ball. That's the way it goes."
Though the Cardinals scored four more runs, Freese's momentum-shifting homer would be all starter Adam Wainwright would need, as he allowed just one run in a complete game.
In 36 career postseason games, Freese is batting .325 (41-for-126) with 29 RBIs. With his seventh October homer Wednesday, he moved into third place in Cards history for postseason home runs, trailing just Jim Edmonds (13) and Albert Pujols (18).
"[We're] very fortunate that David can step up in these big situations," manager Mike Matheny said. "I'm a firm believer that confidence breeds more confidence. And David knows that he can perform on the big stage and enjoys the rewards of doing that."
Freese's clutch track record in October is much like his team's, as the Cardinals are 8-1 in elimination games since the start of the 2011 playoffs.
"We don't overthink too many things. We understand what's at stake and all of that, but we just go out there and play the game," Freese said. "With Tony [La Russa] and now with Mike, it's always been just kind of even keel way to go about it. We just go out there and play hard and see what happens."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.