With the Pirates handily beating the Reds in last night’s Wild Card game, they are now set to return to face the team that snatched the division title out from underneath them. A team they’ve beaten 10 times this season, including four in a row during one abnormally difficult stretch for the now NLC Champs. The Pirates have been a thorn in the Cardinals’ side all season. And it’s not over yet.
Sure, the Reds would have likely been an easier challenge. They seemed to run out of steam about a a week ago. Not to mention, the Cardinals have fared far better against Cincy than Pittsburgh in 2013. Avoiding the pesky Pirates in another five-game series would have boosted the Cardinals’ chances.
But, as they say, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati? The best team is headed to St. Louis.
One more time this season, the Cardinals better be doing their homework on the Pirates.
So much for the momentum of Tuesday’s thrilling 14-inning win.
Then again, as Earl Weaver said once upon a time, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. For the Pirates that was Francisco Liriano, owner of a 12-5 record and 2.83 ERA coming into the game. And, perhaps more importantly, a lefty (who the Cardinals perpetually don’t hit well).
Granted, the Cardinals had Shelby Miller and his 11-7 record and 2.89 ERA starting for them. He was coming back from his very abbreviated two-pitch start against the Dodgers last week, but he was ready to go.
Perfect setup for a pitchers’ duel — which it was …for the first inning. Three up and three down on each side.
Then it became rather deja vu to Tuesday’s game, as the Pirates hit two home runs before there were two outs in the second inning. Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones did the honors to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.