We continue our previews of all the MLB playoff games available on Aussie screens with the Cardinals taking on the Pirates.
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
Time & Dates:
Game 1: Friday 4nd October from Busch Stadium
Game 1 is live on Fox Sports 3 & Fox Sports 3 HD from 7:00am AEST (see TV Guide for other games and times)
The fun and games are over. We are done with the single game playoff games and we can get down to business. It’s time to see the big boys in action and it doesn't get much better than this.
The Cardinals and Pirates. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for fireworks.
These two teams are NL Central rivals. They do not like each other and their fans passionately despise each other.
The divisional race came right down to the wire, with the Cardinals only clinching with days to play in the regular season.
A quick look at the season stats paints a telling picture of just how closely these two foes are matched.
19 games were played in the season series. The Pirates won 10 and the Cardinals won 9. St Louis scored 87 runs in those 19 games, Pittsburgh scored 85. It doesn't get much closer than that.
Let’s try and break this series down to see who has the edge.
St Louis seems to have hitting ability across the board. Yadier Molina is the best hitting catcher in the league and is a genuine MVP candidate. Second baseman Matt Carpenter leads the league in runs and hits. Carlos Beltran is pretty much good at everything and first baseman Matt Adams is just another weapon the Cardinals have up their sleeve.
The Pirates stats do not stack up against a potent St Louis outfit but that is not to say they don’t have some firepower of their own. Catcher Russell Martin crushed two home runs in the game against the Reds, while Pedro Alvarez leads the NL in home runs.
Marlon Byrd is one of the best outfield sluggers in the league, oh and there is a guy called Andrew McCutchen. Cutch is the favourite to take out the NL MVP award and one of the best players in all of baseball right now.
The Cardinals set the standard as far as crossing home plate in the National League. St Louis scored almost 80 more runs than the second ranked team and almost 140 more runs than Pittsburgh across the season. They have the edge at the plate in this one.
The Cardinals have the best pitcher in this series in Adam Wainwright. Wainwright won 19 games this season, the equal most in the NL. The good news for the Pirates is that what happened during the regular season means nothing now.
Both of these teams have some serious firepower in their projected starting rotations.
Along with Wainwright the Cardinals will go with Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly and they are all quality starters. The Pirates will counter with Francisco Liriano, AJ Burnett, Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole. All of the above are close to unplayable when at their best.
There is not much separating these starting rotations but St Louis have the benefit of being able to manipulate their rotation exactly how they would like by not having to burn a pitcher in the Wild Card game.
In a five game series the bullpens are going to be pivotal. They will be called upon and they will need to be used wisely.
Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon will do the work late for Pittsburgh while Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica will be there when the heat in on for the Cardinals.
I’m going to give Pittsburgh the edge on the mound. They shut down Cincinnati and should take the momentum into this series.
Neither team is a supreme defensive outfit although maybe a little surprisingly, the Cardinals have made fewer errors than any NL team this season. But that may just be down to the fact their starting pitching is so good the fielders don’t have to do much work. The Pirates are the better defensive team in this one.
The Cardinals have been in this position many times before. We have seen them stand up in pressure situations in big games time and time again. The Pirates are experiencing their first post-season run in over 20 years. The Cardinals have home field advantage and they will have more composure in the big moments. Cardinals win the series in five games.