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As the first two one-game playoffs have shown this year, starting pitchers who set the tone early have made it tough for opponents to rally.
Tampa Bay jumped out to a first-inning lead on Monday and never looked back. Francisco Liriano set down the first nine Reds hitters while his team gave him a 2-0 lead. His dominant start made it impossible for the Reds to get any sort of rally going.
Liriano went 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings against St. Louis this season, but he won't be able to go until at least Game 3 on Sunday. In the first two games, the Pirates need their other starters to have big performances.
A.J. Burnett went 3-1 against the Cardinals this year, and he will get a chance to set the tone for the series. His last start at Busch Stadium didn't go too well, but he has the talent to lead his team to a victory. After all, he struck out 37 batters in 34.1 innings against the Cardinals this year.
Rookie Gerrit Cole did not face the Cardinals this season. However, he went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five September starts. The 23-year-old is on an incredible run, but he will have to handle the pressure of pitching in the postseason.
Those two pitchers are likely to get the first two starts of the NLDS, and it is important for both of them to hold the Cardinals' offense to nothing in the first few innings while the offense gets going.
In their 10 wins against the Cardinals this season, the Pirates have allowed only six runs through the first three innings. They allowed 31 runs in the first three innings in nine losses.
Pittsburgh has won with great starting pitching this year. It will be up to the starters to get the team off the field quickly in the early innings to set the tone.