There is no need to discuss the stakes of this series, because you know them already. The five games the Pirates will play against the Cardinals over the next few days will not make or break the Pirates' season, but they may go a long ways towards deciding whether the Pirates can compete for a division title this year or not. They are about as important as pre-trade deadline baseball games get, and about as important as any games the Pirates have played in recent memory (fulling admitting that last year had some big games, too). Mostly, though, they're going to be fun. These kinds of series are what baseball is supposed to be about, and as Pirate fans we've had far too little of this for two decades. These five games are going to be stressful and nerve-wracking and fun.
The Cardinals are starting Jake Westbrook tonight. The good news is that Westbrook really can't strike anyone out. Since strikeouts are the Pirates' offense's biggest weakness, I think I'll take my chances with an extreme groundball pitcher like Westbrook. Still, that doesn't mean Westbrook hasn't been pretty good this year. He's getting groundballs almost 60% of the time and he's only given up three homers in 88 1/3 innings, which is how he's got a 2.95 ERA with a 3.26 K/9.
Francisco Liriano starts for the Pirates, which I think makes this a pretty favorable pitching matchup for the Bucs (I'd rather have Liriano facing Westbrook than Miller or Wainwright). He was fantastic in his last start against the Nats, and I'm guessing the Pirates will need Good Liriano tonight. It's worth noting that the Cardinals have been the anti-Pirates with runners in scoring position this year. I say they're due for some bad luck.
First pitch tonight is at 7:05.