The St. Louis Cardinals head into yet another elimination game Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLDS. Here are some quick thoughts about the final game against the Pirates.
1) This series makes it four straight playoff series for the Cardinals where the series has gone the maximum number of games (Not counting last year’s Wild Card game) dating back to the 2011 World Series. The Cards should be totally unfazed by an elimination game at this point. The Pirates have tried to belittle the importance of experience, but they might feel differently after playing an elimination game on the road.
2) The ultimate performance in a Game 5 of the NLDS was Chris Carpenter’s start in 2011 against the Phillies. His complete game shutout changed the entire landscape of that year’s playoffs. It is unreasonable to expect Adam Wainwright to be exactly that good, but for years he has been Carpenter’s understudy getting ready to take over as the big game ace and now the team will hand him the ball with the 2013 season on the line. It may take Wainwright’s best Carpenter impression to win tonight.
3) Wainwright of course got the start in last year’s Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals, and it was a disaster. He gave up six runs in the first three innings and the Cardinals seemed likely to lose until Wainwright’s teammates picked him up for the epic comeback win. The 2013 version of Wainwright has been much better than the 2012 version which was coming off a year missed due to surgery. Last year’s Game 5 is really the only major blemish on Wainwright’s playoff résumé, so expect him to give a prime performance.
4) The Cardinals offense has been feast or famine all year, and the trend has continued lately. Matt Carpenter has been the club’s offensive MVP this year, and as he goes the offense goes. Carpenter has struggled with just one hit so far in the series. It would be a terrible let-down after an incredibly consistent season by Carpenter if the Cardinals were doomed by their leadoff hitter’s worst slump of the season.
5) Pirates starter Gerrit Cole dominated Game 2, but the Cardinals are notorious for struggling against pitchers whom they have never seen before. Having faced Cole less than a week ago will help the Cards. While the Cardinals have relied heavily on rookie pitchers all season, it is the Pirates who are handing the ball to a rook in Game 5 while the Cards are going to their veteran Cy Young Award candidate.