Emotions are always higher in October. Friday’s NLDS Game Two unfortunately gave us an unwelcome reminder — just as wins are sweeter in the postseason, losses are even more painful.
It was another sunny and beautiful afternoon at Busch Stadium, but Game Two quickly became a bizarro world replay of Game One. Everything was reversed, as the Pirates won 7-1.
Well, Lance Lynn didn’t quite do an A.J. Burnett impression, as the five runs he allowed were over three separate innings instead of just one, but he looked more like the Lynn of August instead of September. Unfortunately.
The defensive misplays? The Cardinals this time, although only one official error — by David Freese — compared to the three by the Pirates on Thursday. But Jon Jay misjudged a fly ball in the second that fell in and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Yadier Molina — yes, Yadi — didn’t get a pop-up behind the plate. Matt Carpenter couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in what could have been a double play.
The bullpen management by Mike Matheny also was interesting, to say the least.
Shelby Miller was warming up in the bullpen in the third and fifth innings. When Matheny took Lynn out of the game in the fifth, there were runners at first and second and only one out — perfect Seth Maness situation, and that’s who Matheny brought in. Made total sense. Maness got Russell Martin to hit it on the ground too … although, given that it was bizarro day, it was just out of the reach of Daniel Descalso at short so a run scored. What didn’t make sense was that Matheny brought Shelby in for the eighth inning. And using him made even less sense when the first batter he faced, Starling Marte, launched the second pitch Shelby threw deep into the left-center stands.
So, yes, the Pirates had a rather easy time on offense.
The Cardinals did not.
I’ll admit I was curious to see how the Cardinals hitters would do against Gerrit Cole after watching him pitch a couple of games during my keeping-up-with-the-opponent nightly routine in September. The kid is terrific — which is probably not a surprise given he was the No. 1 overall draft pick just two years ago and was named National League Rookie of the Month for September. But the Cardinals lineup can be potent too, as we know. They also can be shut down … of which we are painfully aware from too many times in 2013.
Which is exactly what Cole did. Two hits allowed in six innings, with one a homer by Yadi in the fifth inning (which, of course bizarrely, is the same inning that the Pirates scored their only run on Thursday — also on a homer). He struck out five, including Lance Lynn and Matt Carpenter back-to-back on six pitches in the third. It’s true the Cardinals seem to struggle against pitchers they’ve never faced before, and it is surprising the Cards hadn’t faced him since his debut in June given the number of times the two teams played each other. But I’m not sure that familiarity would have helped with the way Cole was throwing yesterday. Not every starter can still throw 98 mph to the final batter he faces.
So, the Cardinals now head to Pittsburgh and a sure-to-be-crazy PNC Park for Game Three tomorrow afternoon. We all know the Cards have only won three games there all season, we all know that Francisco Liriano is pitching and has dominated them all season and is especially good at home. Yet Joe Kelly also has dominated the Pirates — winning two of those three games at PNC and has an ERA of 0.64 in 14 innings pitched in Pittsburgh this season. It’s definitely the most compelling pitching match-up in the series thus far.
Speaking of pitching match-ups, Michael Wacha was finally officially named the starter for Monday’s Game Four — stating the obvious, the biggest start of his young career.
But we’ll be concerned with that on Monday. And for now, we’ll use today’s off-day to not worry about what happened yesterday and how things look heading to Pittsburgh. Because the games are played for a reason, not how they look on paper going into them. Plus, as we know, anything can happen in October.
In case you couldn’t catch yesterday’s game — whether you don’t get MLB Network or had to work (hey, thanks for the great schedule, MLB!) or whatever — here’s a link to the very cool opening from the game. It’s worth watching again even if you did see it yesterday too. Although wouldn’t it have been that much more awesome had James Earl Jones narrated it instead of Ray Liotta? Ah, well …
Finally, do you like the Aaron Miles’ Fastball Facebook page? We’re giving away a Burton History Trees Cardinals family tree — just share the picture of it from our page and you’re entered to win. Check it out!
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.