Ah, the Pirates … ahoy there again, mateys! The Cardinals haven’t seen you in about six months now, not since they ended your storybook season in Game Five of the NLDS.
Here’s a preview of this weekend’s games at PNC Park from the latest issue of The Bird’s Eye View, produced before each series by a member of the United Cardinal Bloggers — and I just happened to write this one.
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St. Louis Cardinals (2-1) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (2-1)
After taking the first series of the season in Cincinnati, the St. Louis Cardinals continue their National League Central tour against the team they played the most in 2013: the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two battled 24 times last season and split those games, with the Pirates winning the regular season series 10 games to 9 but the Cards taking the more important postseason series 3 games to 2. These three games are the first of 19 regular season contests between the two in 2014. And, before we’ve quick to say that they won’t meet in October again this year, think back to the beginning of April 2013. Would you have imagined then the Cardinals and Pirates would play in the NLDS?
The Pirates have a little bit different look from last season after A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau departed. Newcomers include Edinson Volquez, who will face the Cards on Sunday, and Travis Ishikawa. They also, of course, have the reigning National League MVP in Andrew McCutchen and Manager of the Year in Clint Hurdle.
Friday, April 4 – 6:05 p.m. Central Time
FOX Sports Midwest, ROOT Sports, MLB Network
Shelby Miller (season debut) vs. Gerrit Cole (season debut)
Shelby Miller will make his first start of the season tonight, after he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting for 2013 yet pitched just one inning in the postseason. That inning, coincidentally, came against the Pirates in Game Two of the National League Division Series and he allowed the final run in the 7-1 Pittsburgh win. Although he was 15-9 last season with a 3.06 ERA, his performances against the Pirates didn’t go quite as well. He was 0-4 in four starts with a 5.32 ERA, and was 0-2 at PNC Park with a 6.10 ERA. Hey, at least it’s a new year!
Opposing Miller tonight is the starter from Game Two of the NLDS, Gerrit Cole. That was his first appearance against the Cardinals after the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft made his big league debut last June, and he also started the decisive Game Five against Adam Wainwright. He gave up three runs in 11 innings over those two games, via a solo homer by Yadier Molina and a two-run shot by David Freese. Overall last season, Cole was 10-7 in 19 starts with a 3.22 ERA. He was 6-5 in 12 starts at PNC, with a 3.75 ERA.
Saturday, April 5 – 6:05 p.m. Central Time
FOX Sports Midwest, MLB Network
Joe Kelly (season debut) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Speaking of the NLDS yet again, tomorrow night is a rematch of the Game Three starters. Fresh off winning the battle for the Cardinals fifth spot in the rotation, Joe Kelly makes his season debut. Last year Kelly began the season in the bullpen, where he had a 3.68 ERA and 1-2 record before joining the rotation in July to make 15 starts and go 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA. He made six regular season appearances against Pittsburgh, with three starts, and was 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA. At PNC Park, he was even better: 2-0 in two starts and three appearances with a 0.64 ERA. In Game Three of the division series, he pitched 5 ⅓ innings and allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits with 5 strikeouts and 4 walks.
In that same game, Francisco Liriano threw 6 innings and allowed 2 runs on 3 hits with 5 strikeouts and two walks in the Pirates victory. He makes his second start of the season tomorrow, following up an Opening Day performance in which he gave up 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 10 Cubs in 6 innings of the Pirates ultimate 1-0 win in 10 innings. Last year, he was 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts and was pretty successful at PNC Park: 8-1 in 11 starts with a 1.47 ERA. He made three starts against the Cards in 2013, going 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA. Hey, at least it’s a new year!
Sunday, April 6 – 12:35 p.m. Central Time
FOX Sports Midwest, ROOT Sports
Adam Wainwright (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
The Cards Opening Day starter will make his second appearance on Sunday, following up on his 7 inning, 2 hit, 9 strikeout, 4 walk victory over the Reds. Against the Pirates for his career, he’s made 22 appearances and 18 starts with a 9-4 record and 4.81 ERA. Last season he was 1-0 in three starts with a 3.00 ERA and made one start at PNC, in which he allowed 4 earned runs in 7 innings. His last appearance against the Pirates was in Game Five of the NLDS, where he allowed just one run in the complete game win that sent the Cardinals to the NLCS and the Pirates home for the season.
Edinson Volquez makes his debut as a Pirates starter to oppose Wainwright. He pitched two scoreless innings in yesterday’s Pirates loss, a necessity following their 16-inning win the night (or early morning) before. This marks Volquez’s return to the NL Central after being with Reds from 2008-2011. He was traded to the Padres in the Mat Latos deal before the 2012 season. In 10 career starts against the Cardinals, Volquez is 3-5 with a 5.56 ERA although Cards have only hit .231 against him. Through four total career starts at PNC Park, he’s 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA.
Revisiting 2013 Regular Season Numbers
Cardinals team hitting vs. Pirates: .248
Cardinals team ERA vs. Pirates: 4.03
Pirates team hitting vs. Cardinals: .259
Pirates team ERA vs. Cardinals: 3.94
2014 Numbers (Small Sample Size Alert)
Cardinals team hitting
.194/275/.316 with 6 doubles, 2 home runs (Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta) and 26 strikeouts
Pirates team hitting
.175/.282/.219 (yes, SLG is lower than OBP) with 2 doubles, 1 homer (Neil Walker) and 29 strikeouts
Cardinals team pitching
2.69 ERA (starter: 1.45, reliever 4.70) with .190 batting average against
Pirates team pitching
1.54 ERA (starter: 1.50, reliever 1.59) with .222 batting average against
Who’s Hot – Cardinals
Matt Adams .417
Jon Jay .333
Kolten Wong .333
Gaby Sanchez .500
Tony Sanchez .400
Travis Ishikawa .250
Who’s Not – Cardinals
Peter Bourjos .000
Jhonny Peralta .091
Allen Craig .167
Matt Holliday .167
Josh Harrison .000
Clint Barmes .000
Pedro Alvarez .067
Andrew McCutchen .100
Russell Martin .100