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Top-of-the-order struggles doom Pirates in NLDS

Oct 9, 2013, 11:16 PM EDT

Division Series - Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five Getty Images

It was the bats that failed the Pirates in the end. Starling Marte finished the NLDS 1-for-19 with one walk and a hit by pitch from the leadoff spot. Neil Walker, right behind him batting second, was 0-for-19 with two walks.

It’s tough to generate much offense when your top two hitters reach base a total of five times in five games.

Batting third, likely NL MVP Andrew McCutchen was 5-for-17 in the NLDS, but he never drove in a run. He hardly the chance. Justin Morneau also had five hits without an RBI. The Pirates’ fifth, sixth and seventh hitters did the damage, with Marlon Byrd, Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin combining to drive in 13 of the Pirates’ 15 runs in the series.

There’s not really a whole lot the Pirates can take from this. The top two spots in the order weren’t problem areas this year. Despite his lousy walk rate, Marte had a .336 OBP while batting first and was 39-for-51 stealing bases, helping him scored 83 runs in 124 games.

Walker, ideally, is probably more of a No. 6 hitter, but his .256/.330/.477 line batting second is still a big improvement over the NL’s .262/.318/.392 line as a whole.

The Pirates will have to decide this winter whether to re-sign Morneau, Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes or at least similar veteran facsimiles. They have Jose Tabata as a fallback right fielder, and he very quietly hit .282/.342/.429 in his 308 at-bats this year. They also have Jordy Mercer as a candidate to take over at shortstop. First base is the bigger problem area, and unless they want to shift Alvarez across the diamond (which doesn’t seem at all likely), they should add a free agent there, preferably one better than Morneau. Garrett Jones should be non-tendered.

The rest of the lineup will be back. McCutchen is under control through 2018. Walker and Alvarez are candidates for long-term deals. The Pirates should have plenty of flexibility this winter, what with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Barmes and Jones coming off the books and a likely attendance boost on the way in 2014. There’s no reason they can’t add a big free agent to their already potent mix.

  1. paperlions - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    Cardinals being better team doom Pirates in NLCS

    • pens5829 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:43 PM

      You do realize the Cards went 5 games and struggled with a team that had a losing record for 21 straight years??? LA in 4.

      • paperlions - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        So, what you are saying is that you have no point. The Cardinals weren’t playing the teams that had losing records for 21 straight years, they were playing the team that won 94 games, which, of course, is fewer than 97.

        They are both good teams, but there is pretty much no measure by which the Pirates were the better team this year.

      • jholls3 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:48 PM

        Pens, glad you guys turned it around this year. Take this for what it is, you guys got valuable playoff experience for years to come. As a Cards fan I know how talented this Bucs team was this year and look forward to rivalry for years to come. Keep your head up, future is bright… GO CARDS!!

      • apkyletexas - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:42 AM

        I applaud the Cards and their two amazing aces – Wainright and Wacha. Those two should give the Dodgers fits. No other team in the playoffs has a 1-2 punch like that.

        Go Cards! That’s an impressive bunch you’ve got there. I think that with tonight’s win, we ended the year tied in total head-to-head wins. Can’t wait to start it up again in the spring.

        I’m proud of our young Buccos. What an amazing year. This is an incredible group of guys – not a single douche-bag a la Barry Bonds on the roster. In so many ways, McCutchen is the anti-Bonds, and the perfect person to lead a winning tradition back to the ‘Burgh.

  2. drez146 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Im just glad we dont have to here about “how great the pirate fans” are from the national media, it was getting old turning on the TV and thats all you here about, STL has been winning baseball for decades and have always done it right…STL doesnt buy championships they produce them

    • piratecaptain12 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:36 PM

      The smug, it’s suffocating.

      • apkyletexas - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:46 AM

        As a Bucs fan, I agree with @drez146. There was too much TV attention on how noisy and rowdy the Pirates fans could get. To act like the Cards don’t have great fans also is a real disservice to that proud city and franchise.

        Hope your guys win it all again this year – might as well get as much hardware in the division as possible. Maybe our Bucs can add to the trophy collection someday soon.

    • chill1184 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:41 PM

      Just an FYI the media does plenty of Cardinal ass kissing too.

      • piratecaptain12 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        The media doesn’t need to kiss the cards fans asses, the fans do it themselves.

    • babyfarkmcgeezax - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:44 PM

      Please. If Cards fans had to put up with the BS front offices Pirates fans had to deal with the last two decades, they wouldn’t be out in droves to watch minor league teams followed by fireworks and KC and the Sunshine Band either. YOU didn’t produce championships, just like like Pirates fans aren’t the ones who produced all the shitty Pirates teams over the years.

    • pens5829 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:45 PM

      Who cares what you think? Get a life. Look at your payroll. Top 10. They DO buy playoff baseball idiot. Take off the blinders.

      • paperlions - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:51 PM

        The Cardinal’s payroll isn’t top 10.

      • cktai - Oct 10, 2013 at 6:23 AM

        Indeed, they are all the way down at 11th; a massive 1.6 million below Toronto.

        Although it is clearly wrong to say that St Louis buys championships, their financial position certainly helps them to keep a strong team together. Something that teams like say Oakland and Tampa Bay are unable to do.

      • paperlions - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:09 AM

        Of course it helps, and I knew that the Cardinals were 11th, but the Cardinal’s financial resources are pretty much 100% tied to winning and fan attendance. Their TV deal is among the worst in the majors. They can spend because they continue to win, building from within, spending mostly to keep their own players rather than high-priced FAs.

        Again, look at the Cardinal’s roster. Holliday and Beltran are the only everyday players than didn’t come up through the system, the only others are in the bullpen (Choate, Mujica)….every other player on their playoff roster including the entire rotation is homegrown….so, they can and do spend because they’ve been making smart baseball decisions. It is a path that the Pirates appear to be going down as well as they have some great talent still on the way to supplement the guys already up.

        FWIW, if Detroit wins tonight, every team remaining the playoffs will have a payroll at least $30M greater than the Cardinals.

    • magicrat13 - Oct 10, 2013 at 8:40 AM

      I would have expected someone with such arrogance to know the difference between “hear” and “here”…..Guess I was wrong…

    • drone501 - Oct 10, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      i guess you are a sample of how cardinal fans are pompous ass’s. a team in the middle of a mild slump took your cardinals to 5 games. give me a break. look for a dodger sweep.

  3. chill1184 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    Certainly will be an interesting off-season for the boys in the steel city but at least there is some clear picture of what next season will be like.

    • babyfarkmcgeezax - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:08 AM

      Can’t wait to see Taillon and possibly Polanco

  4. sbmcintosh36 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    @drez
    Your comments were spot on until the “don’t buy championships”
    You obviously watch to much worldwide leader and know nothing about the reality of baseball.
    Did the Cardinals draft every player on that roster? ?.. NO, there are many minor league trades and purchases every year so yeah you do buy championships like EVERY team does.

    • forsch31 - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      “Buying a championship” means that a team attempts to build its core in a short time by acquiring top veterans through free agency and trade, similar to what the Angels attempted to do the last couple of seasons and what the Yankees were notorious for doing. Minor league moves and moves for complimentary veteran players aren’t “buying a championship”, unless you enjoy being pedantically literal.

      For the record, the Cardinals 25-Man Roster:
      Matt Holliday was resigned after the Cardinals traded for him a few years ago.
      Carlos Beltran was a free agent signing two years ago.
      Randy Chaote was a free agent signing this year.
      John Axford was a deadline trade this year.
      Edward Mujica was resigned after the Cardinals traded a broken prospect for him last year.

      David Freese was a Single A player when the Cardinals traded the remains of Jim Edmonds for him in December 2007.
      Adam Wainwright was a Double A pitcher when the Cardinals traded J.D. Drew for him and a couple of other guys in December 2003.

      That’s it. A grand total of 7 players on the 25-man roster, 2 of whom still came up through the system. Everyone else was drafted and developed by St. Louis (with one exception): Miller, Wacha, Lynn, Kelly, Seigrist, Rosenthal, Maness, Jay, Carpenter, Adams, Jay, Molina, Cruz, Robinson, Kozma, Descalso, Wong, and Martinez*

      That’s what building a team is–giving time to allow prospects to grow into a role and acquiring needed veterans to fill holes or gaps in their development. Or, the complete opposite of buying one.

      *Martinez was a teenage Latin American signing. Because he was an amateur signing and could not be drafted, he still counts.

  5. pens5829 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    Morneau? Useless. Did nothing since arriving, Reminded me of Jerome Iginla. Keep Byrd. Gamer. Tabata? Bench player but not reliable. Keep Martin around one more year til Sanchez gets more PT. Let Mercer play and send Barmes to the bench. His bat’s horrible when in need of a key hit.

  6. pitpenguinsrulez - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    Seriously screw all of the Cardinals fans they have about as much class as Flyers fans. That has whole team has seen enough success since McGwire in the 1990s. Maybe Cardinal fans can learn some class due in part to their managers respectful post game interview towards to the Pirates. Also lets not forget that the Pirates STILL OWN your beloved Cardinals in series history.

    The offseason will be interesting to say the least. Morneau didn’t impress me one bit. Sure he was solid at first but he failed to produce much scoring at the plate such as Homeruns. AJ will be an interesting case because it’s hard to say if hell come back or not. I’d love to see Byrd return but his stats this season drove up his asking price rightfully so. …But the big question is; Will Bob Nutting ACTUALLY invest the $26 million from TV money into the team or will he keep it all to himself!? I’m never going to be Nutting fan but maybe he’ll learn something from Lemieux and Shero from the Pittsburgh Penguins which is that if you spend the money eventually you’ll have success and with that comes back to back Cup runs in 2008 & 2009 with 2009 being the Championship season. LETS GO PIRATES in 2014

    …Also can’t forget that every kid, including myself, born the moment after the 1992 NLCS ended finally got to see a winning team and playoff baseball in the Burgh for the first time in our lives!

    • chill1184 - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM

      “…..you spend the money eventually you’ll have success……”

      If you dont mind I would like to forward this priority mail to Fred Wilpon

    • emykk - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:30 AM

      Really? Classless is beating up Matt Latos’s wife because you’re so excited to be beating her husband’s team. The Cards are a great team with great fans. Most of the Pirates fans are also great, but you can’t say a whole group of fans are classless without looking at your own fans and seeing the distinct lack of class in some them, as well.

      • pens5829 - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:19 AM

        We’re you there along side the little skank? Did you witness first-hand what happened. Most likely not. Probably just followe her Twitter account to see if you could sneak a peak of a random nip-shots.

      • emykk - Oct 10, 2013 at 8:23 PM

        You’re calling people skanks and talking about nip slips. Who’s classless here?

    • hustleandflomax - Oct 10, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      Bullshit. I’m so tired of all the fan bashing that goes on in here. I refuse to partake in pissing matches with immature little punks like you, but I know better than to equate the whole fanbase of Pirates fans because of YOUR suckness.

  7. heyzeus143 - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    paperlions, Drez, Cards – that sound you hear is the Bucs catching up to you, good luck this year we’re gonna wax ya next year

    • hustleandflomax - Oct 10, 2013 at 8:58 AM

      Mighty big talk. We will see.

    • paperlions - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      Yes, I know….and I am probably just as aware as you are of the Pirates prospects that are coming along….Polanco, Hanson, Taillon, and Glasnow are very promising….their 2013 draft looks very good so far. I have no idea where all of the Pirate fan attitude is coming from (what is this need to spew venom at the fans of teams that make the competition fun?)…..many are acting just like Reds fans did a few years ago….the division is only fun if there is tough competition, this year was awesome because of the 3-team race….much more fun and interesting that winning the division by 10 games.

  8. drez146 - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:14 AM

    Also if we bought championships we would’ve signed Pujols to a long term ridiculous deal but we didn’t, oh but we got Wacha for not signing him…sounds like good drafting and smart front office to me boys

  9. drez146 - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    I’m not hating on the buccos believe me id rather play u guys every year in the playoffs than the reds, I despise that team

    • babyfarkmcgeezax - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:35 AM

      Agreed, I hate the Reds, haha. Never take for granted the way the Cards organization has been run for so long. As a Pirates fan, watching hopeless AAA quality teams for years in the name of lining the pockets of the front office clowns made this season so sweet, even though it ended sooner than I would have liked. But I feel like the Buccos are finally on the right track, and all the crow I am eating in regards to Neal Huntington is pretty damn tasty right now. Good luck Cards, and let’s go Bucs!

  10. emykk - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    I think we can all agree that the Cards and the Bucs being in the playoffs is much preferred to anything involving the Reds.

    In all honesty, I was worried going into this series, because as good as the Cards are, the Pirates gave us a run for our money this season, and I figured this would be tough. I am over the moon that the Cards won, but I would have been cheering for the Bucs, had they won. I say this for one specific reason: Andrew McCutcheon DESERVES a ring. I hope he gets one, with the Bucs or with some other team, but he deserves one.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the next few years bring for the NL Central, with the Bucs doing well and I think the Cubs are coming. Maybe not 2014, but soon. I’d like to see that rivalry have some actual weight to it for once.

    Great season, Pirates! Now, LET’S GO CARDS!! Bring home that 12th ring!

    • theageofquarrel - Oct 10, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      Cutch and Cole will lead this franchise to the promise land.

  11. hustleandflomax - Oct 10, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Congrats to the Pirates and their fans for an amazingly entertaining season. Nobody could have foreseen the 3 team dogfight that took place in the NL Central. Most thought that Cincy and St. Louis would run away with the division.Pittsburgh’ s return to relevance is a fantastic story and it’s a great thing for everyone in the division, league, and MLB. Kudos on an amazing season, Pirates fans.

  12. louhudson23 - Oct 10, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    Defense and pitching wins these games.

    • paperlions - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      …and, you know, 2-run HRs

  13. creek0512 - Oct 10, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    The Cardinals can only afford to sign free agents because the Cardinals fans buy over 3 million tickets every season. Despite being the highest rated team on local RSN games, the Cardinals get next to nothing from their local TV deal, less the the Pirates, and FSN Midwest is carried across 10+ states. The Cardinals might officially have 11th highest payroll, but after you remove Carpenter, Westbrook, Furcal etc. ($30-$40 million) from the playoff roster it is significantly lower. Only Holliday and Beltran didn’t come up from the Cardinals farm system. The Cardinals lost to injury 3 of their starters (Carpenter, Westbrook, Garcia), starting shortstop (Furcal) and first baseman (Craig), are on their 4th closer (Motte, Boggs, Mujica). The guys that replaced them weren’t big name free agents; Wacha, Miller, Kelly, Kozma, Descalso, Adams, Rosenthal, Martinez; all were drafted and developed the Cardinal Way. Because of their great farm system, the Cardinals only ever sign a few affordable free agents to short deals that don’t bury the club for the next decade if they don’t work out.

  14. gunpowderjones - Oct 10, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    It’s a tough call. In Pittsburgh, they beat up Latos’s wife. But in St. Louis she could have been t-boned on the drive hope by a tipsy Tony LaRussa.

    • hustleandflomax - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:00 AM

      That’s cute. Funny thing about that…La Russa’s DUI happened in FLORIDA, chief.

      • gunpowderjones - Oct 10, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        Good of him to only do that out of state.

      • hustleandflomax - Oct 10, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        Kinda nullifies your point about getting “T-Boned” while in St. Louis, doesn’t it? Didn’t you get the memo? La Russa doesn’t live here and doesn’t manage here anymore.

    • pastabelly - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      I am not a fan of attributing a few idiots behavior to entire fan base.

      It’s great for baseball that the Pirates are back. It may never be a great baseball town, but it can be a very good baseball town. Not many would care if baseball is deemed a failure in St Pete, but that’s not the same for the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

  15. badgerbuck - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    People hate when teams like St. Louis continue to be successful year after year,just a well run organization.and a team that you very ever hear of that cause many outside problems with its players.

    • pens5829 - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      WHAT??? Please make some sense.

  16. cabrera24 - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    Cardinals lead off hitter didn’t contribute either . After being tied with Adrian Beltre for the most hits in the majors , carpenter went blank . So no excuses on the pirates . Cardinals were a better team, and a better team on paper . …. But can someone tell me why was JORDY MERCER NOT IN THE STARTING LINEUP ???

  17. alang3131982 - Oct 10, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Umm Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson….problem solved

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