After submitting what looked like a statement victory over the Pirates in Game 1 of the NLDS, the St. Louis Cardinals could not capitalize on the opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. Instead, the Redbirds disappointingly lost Game 2 and only salvage a split of the first two games in St. Louis. The game seemed to shift the momentum of the series in favor of the Pirates.
The Cardinals managed only one run in Game 2 after scoring nine in Game 1. The explosive Cardinal offense has really been feast or famine all year, and after two games, the postseason appears to be no different. The Pirates have a solid pitching staff highlighted by an outstanding bullpen, so the Cardinals hitters will need to be locked in to win each game.
Game 3 slates Pirate ace Francisco Liriano against Cardinals sparkplug Joe Kelly. Liriano has destroyed the Cardinals this year, but Kelly has likewise found success against the Pirates, so this is a really interesting matchup. The advantage the Cardinals gained when they won the division during the regular season was not only home field advantage, but also that the Pirates would have to use their ace Liriano in the Wild Card Game, limiting him to one game in this series. If the Cardinals can finally figure the veteran lefty out, it would surely swing the momentum back to their side.
The Cardinals and manager Mike Matheny have decided to go with rookie Michael Wacha as the starter in Game 4. This leaves Shelby Miller as an option in the bullpen. With Lance Lynn’s shaky start in Game 2, the choice to go with Lynn over Miller by Matheny will be questioned all winter if the Cardinals do not find a way to prevail in this series.
Many in the national media will try to paint the rowdy Pittsburgh home crowd as an advantage, claiming that the city starved for meaningful baseball the last two decades is finally being set free. But this veteran Cardinals lineup will not be intimidated by any environment. Recall that in last year’s playoffs the Redbirds came back from a 6-0 deficit in the deciding game against the Nationals while the Washington crowd was going berserk.