For the first time since 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoffs. Pittsburgh defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card game. The St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central and will face the Pirates in the NLDS.
Pittsburgh defeated St. Louis 10 out of 19 times in the regular season, including a five-game sweep in the middle of the summer. However, the Cards would get the last laugh and go on to win the division. Now the two teams meet for the first time ever in the playoffs.
Keys to the Series
Pitching- The Pirates and Cardinals had two of the best pitching staffs in 2013. The Pirates had a team ERA of 3.26 which ranked 3rd in the MLB, while the Cardinals had a team ERA of 3.42 which was fifth best in the league. Both bullpens are solid as well. Pittsburgh’s bullpen, nicknamed the “Shark Tank” posted an ERA of 2.89 and allowed opposing hitters to hit just .229. The Cardinals’ bullpen ERA was 3.45 and allowed opposing batters to hit just .247.
Which Offense Will be Better? – In the last week of the regular season the Pirates brought the lumber to the yard. Pittsburgh batted .256 and hit 12 homeruns. In the wild card game, the Pirates hit three homeruns, two coming off the bat of catcher Russell Martin. The Cardinals have played solid ball lately, they had a team batting average of .280. While they didn’t hit as many homeruns as the Pirates, they scored just as many runs. The difference maker could be how each team bats with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals had a MLB best .330 average with runners in scoring position, while the Pirates ranked 27th with a .229 average.
Will the Crowd Atmosphere Play a Factor? – It might seem like a silly idea, but the crowd affected the wild card game the Pirates played in. The crowd wore black to have a blackout in PNC Park and starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was rattled by the crowd. After giving up a homerun to Marlon Byrd, the PNC faithful started chanting “Cue-to…Cue-to…Cueto” and when it first started Cueto dropped the ball out of his hands while on the mound, and then served up another homerun to Russell Martin. If Pittsburgh can either tie the series in St. Louis or even take the first two games, the PNC crowd will be rambunctious.
Pittsburgh- Pedro Alvarez- The big bat in the middle of the Pirates lineup is Pedro Alvarez. He finished tied for first in the National League with 36 homeruns and batted in 100 RBIs. He does strike out a bit too much, but if he can be the 36-100 type hitter in this series, the Pirates will have a chance to win the series.
St. Louis- Yadier Molina- The heart and soul of this Cardinals team is their catcher. Molina is in the MVP discussions and was a key contributor to the Cardinals winning the NL Central, but that isn’t good enough for the former World Series winner. The biggest concern with Molina is whether or not he can remain healthy. If he can, the Cards are that much more dangerous.
Game 1- Pittsburgh @ St. Louis Thursday 10/3 5:00 p.m.
Game 2- Pittsburgh @ St. Louis Friday 10/4 1:00 p.m.
Game 3- St. Louis @ Pittsburgh Sunday 10/6 TBD
*Game 4- St. Louis @ Pittsburgh Monday 10/7 TBD
*Game 5- Pittsburgh @ St. Louis Wednesday 10/9 TBD