Hey, these guys look familiar, don’t they?
Yes, it’s the National League Division Series, with the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates once again … although the stakes are higher than they have been all season. No more battle for the division lead anymore — now it’s the race for three wins to move on and face either the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
Here’s a preview of the NLDS in the latest issue The Bird’s Eye View from the United Cardinal Bloggers, which I wrote. You can subscribe to The Bird’s Eye View here — it will continue this season as long as the Cardinals do.
In less than seven hours, the first-ever postseason meeting between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will begin. Of course, the Pirates are not an unknown foe to the Cardinals since the two teams have played 19 times this season already. And, as you probably know, the Pirates won 10 of the 19 but the Cardinals won the final four match-ups.
The Cardinals finished the season 97-65, which was the best record in the National League and tied with the Boston Red Sox for best in MLB. The 97 wins are the most for the Cardinals since 2005, when they were 100-62.
As is very well known, this is the Pirates first winning season and first postseason appearance since 1992. Their regular season record this year was 94-68, their most wins (obviously) since 1992’s 96-66 finish.
What happened in the previous 19 games isn’t nearly as important as what will happen in games 20, 21 and 22 (and maybe 23 and 24) between the Cardinals and Pirates since the winner moves on to the NLCS. We do know we get to see three MVP candidates play over these next three to five games, some very intriguing starting pitching match-ups, two very good bullpens and two very excited home crowds in which the stands will be either a sea of red or sea of black. We get odd start times (although tomorrow’s noon start does make for a nice weekend kickoff) but none of that really matters. It’s October baseball, it’s back again and we’ll be watching (provided you have MLB Network to catch tomorrow’s game), so it’s wonderful (and intense and exciting and excruciating) and, hopefully, just the start of an entire month of these emotions.
Game One: Thursday, Oct. 3, at Busch Stadium
4 p.m. Central Time
A.J. Burnett vs. Adam Wainwright
Game Two: Friday, Oct. 4, at Busch Stadium
Noon Central Time
TV: MLB Network
Gerrit Cole vs. Lance Lynn
Game Three: Sunday, Oct. 6, at PNC Park
Time to be determined
Joe Kelly vs. Francisco Liriano
Game Four (if necessary): Monday, Oct. 7, at PNC Park
Time to be determined
TV: TBS or MLB Network
Shelby Miller or Michael Wacha vs. Charlie Morton
Game Five (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Busch Stadium
Time to be determined
A.J. Burnett vs. Adam Wainwright
TBS announcers: Dick Stockton, Bob Brenly, Matt Winer
MLB Network announcers: Bob Costas, Jim Kaat, Matt Vasgersian
Today will be Burnett’s seventh start against the Cardinals this season. He has a record of 3-1 and has allowed 27 hits and 14 earned runs in 34 1/3 innings, striking out 37 while walking 9. He’s not allowed a homer to the Cardinals all year. At Busch Stadium, Burnett was 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA. This is his eighth postseason start, with his most recent in Game Four of the 2011 American League Division Series for the Yankees. His postseason record is 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA.
Wainwright has three previous starts against the Pirates this year, with a record of 1-0. He’s allowed 7 earned runs on 15 hits in 21 innings pitched, striking out 20 and walking 6. He’s allowed three home runs. At home, Wainwright has gone 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA. Today will be his 14th postseason game and fifth start. His postseason record is 2-0 with a 2.48 ERA.
The Pirates go from their most experienced starter in Game One to their least experienced in Game Two. The overall No. 1 draft pick in 2011, Cole made his major league debut on June 11 but has yet to face the Cardinals. He made 19 starts, allowing 42 earned runs in 117 1/3 innings with 100 strikeouts and 28 walks. He was named National League Rookie of the Month for September, as he went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA.
Lance Lynn has faced the Pirates five times this season, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Actually, two starts were: on April 26 at Busch Stadium and on July 30 in the first game of the double-header at PNC Park. He allowed one earned run in both of those starts, in seven and six innings respectively. Overall, he has a 2-1 record against the Pirates this season with a 5.60 ERA. He’s given up 17 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings on 30 hits, with 30 strikeouts and 12 walks. This will be Lynn’s third postseason start and 17th postseason appearance. He has a 3-2 record and 4.50 ERA.
We’re presuming Joe Kelly is starting, but the Cardinals haven’t made an official announcement. As Jenifer Langosch wrote at Cardinals.com: “Manager Mike Matheny noted that [Michael] Wacha and [Shelby] Miller will be available out of the bullpen, if needed, in Game 1. That would suggest that the Cardinals are leaning toward calling on Kelly for the Game 3 start, though that is not confirmed.” So, with that presumption, Kelly’s had success against the Pirates this season, going 3-1 in six games and three starts with a 2.53 ERA. At PNC Park, he’s been outstanding: 2-0 in three games and two starts with a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings pitched (with those two wins both coming after consecutive Cards losses there, including the first four of the five-game series in late July). Kelly made seven appearances last October, but this will be his first postseason start. And it will come in what will no doubt again be a crazy atmosphere at PNC Park, as we saw in Tuesday night’s wild card game.
Speaking of that wild card game, Francisco Liriano will be starting for the Pirates again. He’s been great at PNC Park this season, compiling an 8-1 regular season record in 11 starts with a 1.47 ERA. He’s been equally as good against the Cardinals, with a 3-0 record in three starts (one at Busch Stadium) with a 0.75 ERA. The Cardinals are only hitting .127 against him but Matt Holliday is 3 for 8, Carlos Beltran is 3 for 10 and Jon Jay is 1 for 3. Before Tuesday’s wild card game, Liriano had two appearances (one start) in the postseason for the Twins in 2009 and 2010.
As noted above, the Cardinals haven’t announced a starter for Game Four, although they have two options available. Shelby Miller has not fared well against the Pirates this year, with an 0-4 record and 5.32 ERA. At PNC Park, where this game will be, he’s 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA. Wacha has faced the Pirates twice, including one start (against Morton) on Sept. 8, the third game of the Cards sweep at Busch Stadium. Wacha threw 7 scoreless innings that day and has 9 scoreless innings against Pittsburgh this year, giving up just two hits while striking out six.
Morton has started three times against St. Louis this season, recording two losses with an ERA of 7.90 with two of those games (and one loss) at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are hitting .397 against him in 2013. At PNC Park, Morton overall does well with a 2-2 record in nine starts with a 2.85 ERA. Not surprisingly, since he’s been on the Pirates since 2009, Morton has no postseason experience.
At Busch Stadium
April 26 – Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
April 27 – Pirates 5, Cardinals 3
April 28 – Pirates 9, Cardinals 0
Aug. 13 – Cardinals 4, Pirates 3 in 14 innings
Aug. 14 – Pirates 5, Cardinals 1
Aug. 15 – Cardinals 6, Pirates 5 in 12 innings
Sept. 6 – Cardinals 12, Pirates 8
Sept. 7 – Cardinals 5, Pirates 0
Sept. 8 – Cardinals 9, Pirates 2
At PNC Park
April 15 – Cardinals 10, Pirates 6
April 16 – Pirates 5, Cardinals 0
July 29 – Pirates 9, Cardinals 2
July 30 – Game One: Pirates 2, Cardinals 1 in 11 innings
July 30 – Game Two: Pirates 6, Cardinals 0
July 31 – Pirates 5, Cardinals 4
Aug. 1 – Cardinals 13, Pirates 0
Aug. 30 – Pirates 5, Cardinals 0
Aug. 31 – Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Sept. 1 – Cardinals 7, Pirates 2
Cardinals team hitting – regular season: .269/.332/.401
Cardinals team hitting vs. Pirates: .248
Cardinals team ERA – regular season: 3.42. Starter: 3.42. Reliever: 3.45
Cardinals team ERA vs. Pirates: 4.03
Pirates team hitting – regular season: .245/.313/.396
Pirates team hitting vs. Cardinals: .259
Pirates team ERA – regular season: 3.26. Starter: 3.50. Reliever: 2.89
Pirates team ERA vs. Cardinals: 3.94
Cardinals team leaders – regular season
Batting average: Yadier Molina, .319
On-base percentage: Matt Carpenter, .392
Slugging percentage: Matt Adams, .503
OPS: Matt Holliday, .879 each
Home runs: Carlos Beltran, 24
RBI: Allen Craig, 97
WAR – offense: Matt Carpenter, 6.7
Stolen bases: Jon Jay, 10
Wins: Adam Wainwright, 19
ERA – Reliever: Kevin Siegrist, 0.45. Starter: Joe Kelly, 2.69
Strikeouts: Adam Wainwright, 219
Saves: Edward Mujica, 37
WAR – pitching: Adam Wainwright, 6.2
Pirates team leaders – regular season
Batting average: Marlon Byrd, .318
On-base percentage: Andrew McCutchen, .404
Slugging percentage: Andrew McCutchen, .508
OPS: Andrew McCutchen, .911
Home runs: Pedro Alvarez, 36
RBI: Pedro Alvarez, 100
WAR – offense: Andrew McCutchen, 7.5
Stolen bases: Starling Marte, 41
Wins: Francisco Liriano, 16
ERA – Reliever: Kyle Farnsworth, 1.04. Starter: Francisco Liriano, 3.02.
Strikeouts: A.J. Burnett, 209
Saves: Jason Grilli, 33
WAR – pitching: Francisco Liriano, 3.0
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not – September 2013
Hot: Matt Holliday .378/.485/.598
Matt Carpenter .349/.441/.523
Matt Adams .315/.344/.609
Jon Jay .309/.383/.351
Not: Daniel Descalso .217/.250/.333
Carlos Beltran .217/.320/.313
Shane Robinson .205/.250/.227
Hot: Jordy Mercer .347/.373/.633
Marlon Byrd .319/.364/.462
Andrew McCutchen .318/.453/.541
Jose Tabata .315/.351/.493
Not: Neil Walker .207/.277/.457
Clint Barmes .174/.204/.261
Russell Martin .127/.214.222
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