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Looking ahead to NLDS Game 3: Cardinals-Pirates

Oct 6, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT

francisco liriano getty Getty Images

PNC Park hosted its first-ever postseason game last Tuesday night and the Pirates rose to the occasion in front of a rambunctious, black-shirt-wearing home crowd, securing the National League Wild Card with a decisive 6-2 defeat of the Reds. Now the stakes are raised with the NL Central-champion Cardinals in town for Game 3 of this 1-1 best-of-five NLDS.

The broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS.

Pirates starter Francisco Liriano was brilliant in the Wild Card win versus Cincinnati, scattering four hits and one run over seven dominant innings. He faced the Cardinals three times during the 2013 regular season and was even more lights-out, going 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 20/5 K/BB ratio in 24 total frames. All signs point to the 29-year-old left-hander giving another memorable performance on Sunday, though this sport tends to laugh at such certainties.

Taking the mound for St. Louis will be 25-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly, who had an excellent stretch in the Cardinals’ rotation between early June and late August and actually finished with a better regular-season ERA (2.69) than Liriano (3.02). Kelly has a fastball that can reach into the high-90s and decent breaking stuff, but he doesn’t have great command of that arsenal and he doesn’t rack up many strikeouts. Pair that with the poor St. Louis defense and the Cardinals are susceptible to some ugly innings when Kelly is on the mound.

Pittsburgh’s offense had a big day in Friday’s 7-1 Game 2 victory at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals scored nine runs Thursday in their 9-1 Game 1 win. We’re due for a nail-biter in Game 3, right?

  1. Stiller43 - Oct 6, 2013 at 10:41 AM


  2. wonkypenguin - Oct 6, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    No one else here in Minnesota is as excited about this game as I am. Guaranteed. I’m okay with a nail biter. Or a Pirates blow out. Just more NL baseball, please.

    • racksie - Oct 6, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      Wrong. I am equally excited. Glad Liriano finally listened to his pitching coach and ditched the four seamer for the two seamer. Of course having $5 million yanked from your pocket for a very questionable injury does that to a guy. And who can root against Morneau? Go Bucs!

      • wonkypenguin - Oct 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        If you need beer, I have some. Come on over. :-)

    • racksie - Oct 6, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      Only a Minnesotan would get that joke! But I am good, thanks for the offer, though!

  3. spudchukar - Oct 6, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    Much of what Drew discusses is accurate. But he is a little harsh on Kelly. While it is true that he doesn’t strike out a lot, he also doesn’t allow the opposition to square up balls often. He has great movement, and only allowed 1 HR in his last 7 starts.

    Plus his command improved as the season progressed allowing only 4 walks in his last 5 outings. Plus he has been remarkably consistent, and has been a beast against Pittsburgh, both at home and away.

    That said, if the Cards don’t take a different approach against Liriano, they are likely toast in Game 3, and quite possibly the series. Asking a rookie, Wacha, who has been very good at times, but struggled in other contests to succeed on the road in the play-off pressure cooker, with the success-starved Pittsburgh din ready to pounce, is probably wishful thinking for St. Louis.

    And while Morton certainly hasn’t finished strong he may be due for a good outing, especially if the Pirates have the series advantage.

    But pressure exists for the Pirates too. A loss in either of the home contests, sends the series back to Missouri, with Wainwright and his post-season success waiting.

    The Pirates, may be tempted to skip Burnett in favor of Cole, who would be pitching on 5 days rest. But the Red Birds had never seen the Pirate rookie before, and the Cards have a history of feasting on young hurlers the second time seen.

    Liriano, will probably prevail, unless St. Louis can adjust and attack him like they do righties, but for some reason the Cards don’t seem capable of altering their style against lefties, especially one with good breaking balls. The edge goes to the Buccos, but they must finish off the Red Birds at home or that edge disappears, if they have to hit the road for a Game 5.

    • danwilliamsmlb - Oct 6, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      They need to see more pitches from Liriano. Last time the Cardinals faced him, they were hacking at first and second pitches rather than working the count in their favor (and raising his pitch count in the process). The guy is very good and if you go up there flailing away, you only make him better.

      • spudchukar - Oct 6, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Agree completely. If they take the opposite field, up the middle strategy like they do against righties, they can wait longer, and lay off the slider in the dirt, but if they try to hit the first fastball they see they will be playing into Liriano’s hands.

        He gave up 10 @ Colorado, 4 @ San Francisco, 7 @ Milwaukee, and 4 @ Chicago, in August and September, and while those were all obviously on the road, it shows he isn’t invincible.

        One last thought. If the Bucs take Game #3, the Cards could shift to Waino in Game #4, in an attempt to get the series back to St. Louis, where Wacha is more likely to succeed. They would be only asking Wainwright to pitch on 3 days rest, and make his chances of more starts in the next series, if there is one more possible.

      • danwilliamsmlb - Oct 6, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        Waino on three days rest worries me, but I see where you are going with that; hopefully it won’t be necessary. I’d like to see Carpenter lead off with a 6+ pitch at-bat and set an early tone of patience and grinding it out.

      • racksie - Oct 6, 2013 at 1:27 PM

        With that slider you need to get to him early, because that pitch is nasty when you are behind in the count. Take some swipes at an early fastball, or you are dead.

      • danwilliamsmlb - Oct 6, 2013 at 1:35 PM


        That’s exactly what they did with him last time and he ate their lunch.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      “FIP doesn’t apply to my guy!” — Everyone Ever when peripherals show their player probably isn’t as good as his ERA shows.

      Invariably, they are all disappointed the next year.

      • spudchukar - Oct 6, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        Except this is Kelly’s second consecutive good year.

      • spudchukar - Oct 6, 2013 at 5:20 PM

        Plus, you are inventing quotes, and attributing them to me. Talk about a straw man.

  4. agc99 - Oct 6, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I can’t wait to see the fan support today. Pittsburgh is a great baseball town and the fans are starved for a winner.

  5. okwhitefalcon - Oct 6, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Cards are swimming with sharks and are likely headed to chum status today.

    Better get to Liriano early and get Kelly a lead or it could be a swift decison, Kelly’s been great but he puts a ton of runners on base – I suspect Pittsburgh will jump out and more than likely roll today.

    The crowd storyline is a warm and fuzzy angle but will be overblown to the point of nausea, the Cards have played in plenty of big boy situations – nothing a 3 run homer early on and a shutdown inning following won’t take care of..

  6. steelers88 - Oct 6, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    LETS GO BUCS!!!!!!

  7. thomas844 - Oct 6, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Preparing to hear this for most of the game: “Keeeeeelly! Keeeeeelly! Keeeeeelly!”

    • spudchukar - Oct 6, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      I hope to hear it for 9 innings.

      • NatsLady - Oct 6, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        I hope to hear it for three innings.

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