Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 10/9/13
Pirates at Cardinals–Series Tied 2-2 8:00 PM–Busch Stadium, St Louis MLB.com Gameday TV: TBS For the second time in just over a week, the season comes down to one game. (That Wild Card game feels like it was a while ago now, right?) The Bucs spoiled us in that one by taking an early lead and not looking back — after the second inning, their win probablity never dipped below 74%. They were at home, with a racous crowd behind them, with their ace on the mound — and for whatever it’s worth, they had momentum going in to the game. None of that is the case tonight. The Pirates are coming off a missed opportunity and a poor offensive showing, regardless of how good you think Michael Wacha is. They’ll be playing at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals won 54 games this regular season (2nd-most home wins in MLB behind Atlanta’s 56). They’re going up against the opponent’s ace. And that ace isn’t just a good pitcher – he’s a postseason-tested pitcher, and plays for a team that has been sensational in elimination games. The Cardinals have been the storybook playoff team so many times, and it’s sickening to think that the Bucs missed their first chance to finish them off and could now easily be the victim of another St Louis series comeback.  As much as I hate the fact that this game is on the road, opening up the possibility of terrifying late innings and a season-ending walk off hit, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the game as well. The Pirates have bounced back from tough losses all season. They have shown up on the road – and at Busch – for the most part. They have pitched very well for this entire series since Game 1, and have played solid ball against the mighty Cardinals all year long. And honestly, it just doesn’t feel like it’s time for this to end. There’s no actual reasoning behind that, but in a year that has been so magical, it almost seems like another dramatic win is just the next chapter of the story. We’ll see. Tonight’s starters… Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22) vs Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) Starting Cole was a no-brainer. A.J. Burnett is the leader, the “ace” (not anymore), the go to guy, etc etc. Too bad. Cole gives the Pirates a much better chance to win this game, and there’s really no way you can argue that. If you’re worried about this kind of pressure being too much for a rookie, you obviously missed Game 2…and Game 4. Cole has shown the stuff and the mental makeup to handle this situation, and more importantly, he has been absolutely lights out for over a month now. He was terrific in the Pirates’ first victory of this series – the first time he faced the Cards.  If he comes out without great feel for his location or breaking ball, he has the ability to get away with it (more so than any other pitcher that “doesn’t have it” on a particular day). It’s one road game against a great lineup, so you never know, but you have to think he has a very strong chance of at least keeping the Pirates in the game, with strong potential to deliver a brilliant start. He might need that brilliant start. Wainwright is as good as it gets on the other side, and he’s been here before. He dominated the Bucs in Game 1, allowing only a Pedro homer in a Cards blowout win. He seems to have found a groove lately as well, and has overcome some surprisingly subpar numbers against the Bucs in his last two starts against them – both terrific outings. He’s almost a sure bet to go seven innings, at least, even if the pitch count is getting up there. If there are any positives in facing Wainwright, one might be the fact that the infamous shadows that many figured would harm the Bucs ability to pick up his excellent curveball in Game 1 will be gone…it’s a true night game (finally). Also, the Pirates have hit him fairly well historically (but not in their last two games against him). McCutchen, Martin, Alvarez, and even Barmes have had success against “Waino”, and the slumping Neil Walker has done OK against him as well. Pirates vs. Wainwright Cardinals vs. Cole LET’S GO BUCS!!!
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