Tuesday night, Pirates fans saw their dreams come true. On Thursday, those dreams ran straight into the wall of reality, a wall with the words “St. Louis Cardinals” emblazoned across the front. On October 1, after 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates returned to the postseason and quickly claimed victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the one game Wild Card playoff that sent them to the NLDS to face the Cardinals.
The entire city of Pittsburgh won that game, with the fan presence seemingly to have a profound effect on the outcome of the game. The now infamous “Cueto” chants seemed directly tied to the Reds starter’s poor performance which saw him give up four runs, all of them earned, and last only 3.1 innings. The revelry reached such a fever pitch that one Reds fan was attacked by a Pirates fan.
The Pirates won Tuesday’s game 6-2, and now may wish they were back in Pittsburgh after getting blown out in St. Louis, 9-1. Indeed, the Pirates, while barely edging out the Cardinals in the season series between the two teams by taking 10 of 19 games, have lost six of nine at Busch Stadium.
The Pirates have shown why they have been so bad in St. Louis tonight, committing three errors and mustering only one run off of four hits. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, winner of two World Series championships with the Cardinals, looked to be in top form again tonight, not allowing a runner until the fourth inning. Overall, he lasted seven innings and struck out nine. Opposite him was A.J. Burnett, also an owner of two World Series rings, one with the 2003 Florida Marlins and another with the 2009 New York Yankees. Burnett, however, would not fare as well as his counterpart. He would end the night after pitching only two innings while giving up seven runs, all earned, and striking out none. Burnett also did not have an experienced offense to bail him out.
Only six Pirates have had postseason experience, and it showed tonight. They never seemed to be able to figure out Wainwright, and in a stadium which was every bit as hostile as the one the Reds faced while in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, the Pirates are now facing the true test of the postseason: how to win on the road.
The comfort level, or lack thereof, displayed by the Pirates was contrasted by the steady as she goes, business-like approach of the Cardinals, whose core is comprised of many of those same players who were on that 2011 championship team. “We don’t shy away from the topic of how much experience our team has,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said. “When you look in that room and you look at the rings that these guys have won, there is a lot of value to what they’ve learned through the years.”
This is still only game one of the National League Division Series, with plenty of baseball left to play and plenty of time for the Pirates to get this all sorted out. If the Pirates can win on the road in St. Louis and come home and finish off the Cardinals in Pittsburgh, it may just be the added push they need to propel them to the World Series and possibly even the franchise’s first championship since 1979. Game two of the NLDS is at 1:07 PM tomorrow with the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole facing off against the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn.
By: Matthew Clark