The Cardinals pinned their hopes on staying alive in the National League division series today on a starting pitcher who was a few months out of college last year.

But Michael Wacha 22 isn’t your ordinary rookie. He had held the Pittsburgh Pirates to two hits and no runs in a seven-inning start in August. He had held the Washington Nationals hitless for 8 2/3 innings in his final regular-season start. And he held the Pirates hitless for the first 7 1/3 innings today.

A long home run by Pedro Alvarez ended that no-hit bid in the eighth but fellow rookies Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal came to the rescue as did Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina to preserve a 2-1 win that enabled the Cardinals to play another day.

Game 5 of this series which is tied at two games apiece will be on Wednesday in St. Louis with Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright a 9-1 winner in Game 1 likely to oppose impressive Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole the Game 2 victor.

Matt Holliday’s two-run homer in the sixth off Charlie Morton broke a scoreless tie. The Cardinals did not have a hit after that and had only three for the game but Molina threw out pinch runner Josh Harrison at second base on a hit-and-run play in the eighth. And Rosenthal got Andrew McCutchen to pop up with a runner at first to end the game.

Wacha the Cardinals’ top draft pick in 2012 struck out nine and walked only two. Only two pitchers Don Larsen of the New York Yankees in 1956 (a perfect game) and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay in 2010 have pitched postseason no-hitters.

The PNC Park capacity crowd was in a frenzy from the moment former Pirates star Andy Van Slyke who began his career with the Cardinals threw out the ceremonial first pitch after furiously waving a black towel he had pulled out of his back pocket.

But the Pirates still have not won a postseason series since 1979 and the Cardinals still are in position to win their ninth division series out of 11.