Oct 3, 2013, 9:20 AM EDT
You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Pirates and Cardinals have in store for us in the National League Division Series.
Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
Game 1 Today in St. Louis: A.J. Burnett vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 2 Friday in St. Louis: Gerrit Cole vs. Lance Lynn
Game 3 Sunday in Pittsburgh: Joe Kelly vs. Francisco Liriano
Game 4 (if necessary) Monday in Pittsburgh: Undecided vs. Charlie Morton
Game 5 (if necessary) Wednesday in St. Louis
These teams are certainly no strangers to each other, having battled all year for the NL Central crown. The Pirates won the season series 10-9, but the Cardinals took care of business against their other opponents better than the Pirates did, taking the flag. It did take work, however, as Pittsburgh was in first place much longer than the Cards were, with St. Louis only passing them up for good in mid-September. the Cardinals only passed up Pittsburgh for good in mid-September.
But they are very different in terms of postseason experience. The Cardinals have been in the playoffs ten times in the past 14 years. The Pirates, as you may have heard once or twice, are back in the dance for the first time since 1992. Pittsburgh is the ultimate Cinderella story with a bandwagon of fans which grows by the day. St. Louis, it seems, is being cast as something akin to the Yankees this fall. That overdog team which is in it every year and which people are, quite frankly, getting a bit tired of seeing.
Thing is, though: such a narrative is fun and all, but it’s less than illuminating or explanatory. Only three games separated these two clubs. While most will favor the Cards and root for the Pirates, this series is anything but a mismatch.
- Each of these teams has a legitimate MVP candidate: Yadier Molina for the Cards and Andrew McCutchen for the Pirates. Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter will likely have some votes thrown his way as well. But McCutchen may be the most likely to dominate in this series. He showed on Tuesday that being a playoff newbie meant little, reaching base in each of his first four plate appearances and scoring once. And he is probably champing at the bit for Game 1 to start: he has a career line of .429/.452/.750 against Adam Wainwright.
- That said, Wainwright has been dominant in his home park, where he will likely start twice if the series goes five games. Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, however, is no great shakes on the road and has been blown up in Bush Stadium in the past.
- The Pirates like to run, especially with Starling Marte and McCutchen. Molina is one of the best in the business at gunning down base runners, however, so if Clint Hurdle is hellbent on making things happen on the base paths he could be in for a rude awakening.
- The Cardinals have some roster flux: closer Edward Mujica is on the playoff roster but he has lost his closer job after a miserable September. First baseman Allen Craig is off the roster with a sprained foot. But one of the hallmarks of the Cardinals for the past several years has been team depth. Every time someone leaves the team or goes down there is always someone there to take their place and the team tends to not miss a beat. Here we have Trevor Rosenthal filling in for Mujica, and as we saw in last year’s playoffs, Rosenthal can be dominant. In for Craig: Matt Adams, who did nothing other than hit .284/.335/.503 with 17 home runs in 319 plate appearances in 2013. The Cardinals don’t rebuild, they reload.
- This series will be worth watching for the fans alone. PNC Park’s rowdiness clearly got the best of the Reds on Tuesday night and you can expect them to be just as crazy when this series gets to Pittsburgh over the weekend. Meanwhile, don’t think for a minute that the Cardinals’ self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball didn’t take notice and won’t do their best to amp up the noise a well. Between Cardinal red and Pirate black these games are gonna look more like college football crowds than baseball crowds.
This series will be laden with more narrative storylines than any of the others this postseason, and most of them will put the Pirates in the more positive light. But ultimately, baseball games are decided on talent. While McCutchen is probably the best guy on the field in this series, this is not the NBA and one man can’t carry a team. Overall the Cardinals have the better lineup with fewer holes. They led the NL in on-base percentage, were third in slugging, were historically good hitting with runners in scoring position and led the league in runs scored. Even after Allen Craig went down in early September, the offense did not really miss a beat.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals rotation likely has the edge here too, if for no other reason than the Pirates best starter — Francisco Liriano — was used on Tuesday and will get only one start in this series. The Cardinals’ starters, meanwhile, combined for a 2.36 ERA in September. The Pirates probably have a slight edge in the bullpen and a huge edge in team defense, but I feel like the Cards have way too much firepower.
I’ll pick The Cardinals in Five.
Aug 27, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
Derek Jeter’s retirement tour continued Wednesday night at Detroit’s Comerica Park with another set of gifts …
Aug 27, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
Watch as Cubs top outfield prospect Jorge Soler goes deep to left-center field in his first major league at-bat Wednesday evening at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati …
Aug 27, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT
From Brian Stull of STL Baseball Weekly comes word that Michael Wacha has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. Wacha threw a simulated game at Springfield on Wednesday afternoon and reported no issues with his shoulder.
Aug 27, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario continues to battle with inflammation in his left wrist and was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday evening.
Aug 27, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Which, despite the name of it, usually isn’t as serious as a lot of other stuff that can afflict pitchers.
Aug 27, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Young signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Mets this offseason in the hopes of building back his value before hitting the free agent market again, but instead he hit just .205 with eight homers and a .630 OPS in 88 games.
Aug 27, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Crow was an All-Star in 2011 and has a 3.35 ERA in 226 career innings through age 26, including a 3.86 ERA in 59 appearances this season.
Aug 27, 2014, 3:18 PM EDT
In the 10 games prior to the injury Ortiz hit .515 with four homers, three doubles, and a 1.606 OPS while the Red Sox went 2-8.
Aug 27, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
Offerman ended a man’s career by hitting him with a bat. Now he has to pay for it.
Aug 27, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT
Alonso is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason coming off a career-worst season in which he hit just .240 with seven homers and a .682 OPS in 84 games.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
The league that has no HGH testing and never gets criticized for its drug policies, has suspended a guy for a year for using a substance that is legal in two of the 22 states in which the NFL operates.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
Astros prospect Mark Appel was terrible at Single-A and then there was a weird quasi-controversy about him throwing a bullpen session in Houston, but now the former No. 1 overall pick is thriving at Double-A.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Alex Gordon and the Royals fly under the radar, but here they are, on top of the AL Central.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
Cingrani has been on the Triple-A disabled list since late June with a strained shoulder and recently had to halt the start of a throwing program due to continued discomfort.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
“He’d probably punch me if heard me saying that but you’re really going to take your time and make sure he’s ready to go.”
Aug 27, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT
The young stars will shine in the Arizona sun.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Napoli became just the eighth visiting player to hit a homer into the fifth deck at Rogers Centre in the ballpark’s 26-year history.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Another doozy was uncorked in Houston last night.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Right-hander Bryan Morris has been ridiculously good for the Marlins since they acquired him from the Pirates for a draft pick in June, posting a 0.48 ERA in 38 innings. But now he’s hurt.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
The Pirates need McCutchen more than any playoff contender needs any single player.
- Video: Jorge Soler homers in his first major league at-bat 9
- Adam Wainwright has a “dead arm” 26
- HBT Daily: Alex Gordon and the Royals keep on rolling 11
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 41
- Mariners extend general manager Jack Zduriencik’s contract 14
- Money, money, money (and Bud Selig’s nirvana) 16
- These days, the correlation between payroll and winning is historically weak 61
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 49
- The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare (247)
- Forgiveness for Pete Rose? Not in this lifetime (143)
- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million (96)
- A pitch clock in Major League Baseball? No thanks. (92)
- Great Moments in Drug Testing and Punishment: The NFL Edition (91)