The St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2013 season as the best team in the National League. The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed a playoff spot via Wild Card and defeated the Cincinnati Reds for the Pirates' first playoff victory in over 20 years.
There is very little doubt when it comes to the lead story of the National League Division Series between these two Central Division foes. The Pirates have all of the focus on them as America begins to embrace the rebirth of the franchise. The Cardinals have become the Goliath to the Pirates' David. Everyone loves the underdog and the Pirates play the part very well.
The city of Pittsburgh is showing their pride in the Pirates as well. A loud and enthusiastic crowd filled PNC Park for the Wild Card game with the Reds. Word spread throughout Pittsburgh that fans were encouraged to create a "black out" by wearing black Pirates gear to the game. Pirates center fielder and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen took to Twitter to get the fans fired up:
#PNCBLACKOUT ...we are all in this together!— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) September 30, 2013
It showed loud and clear on TBS Tuesday night and the message was received across the country: Pirates fans were going to support their team and become a factor in every game. That message came through to Cardinal manager Mike Matheny, who said as much in an interview with MLB.com's Tom Singer and Joey Nowak:
I thought the atmosphere last night was great. You could hear it, you could feel it just through the TV. But the fans there are excited, and rightfully so. We have the same thing here. That's playoff baseball.
As the Pirates open the NLDS on the road in St. Louis, they will find a Cardinals team that is ready to send a message to them as well. There are no nerves, no need to prove their worth and no inflated hope in St. Louis. They have been here before. Bernie Miklasz of StlToday.com noted in an earlier column that exact thought when talking to Adam Wainwright.
He was asked whether or not nerves would be a factor before Thursday’s game at Busch Stadium. Wainwright responded with 'a knockdown pitch for an answer'.
“No. I mean, we have a long history of playoff games here,” he stated.
Wainwright will take the mound in front of a familiar crowd in St. Louis. The fans will create their own colorful statement, one that has been known as the "sea of red" for a very long time. He will look to make the statement for the Cardinals and put the baseball world on notice. The best team in the National League is in St. Louis.
Goliath is ready to crush David's dreams.
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