With Game 3 of the 2013 National League Division Series now in the past, the Pittsburgh Pirates are poised to clinch an NLCS berth. With that said, if they expect the St. Louis Cardinals to roll over and play dead, they are sadly mistaken.
The Cardinals have a lot to overcome, but if there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, it’s that they shouldn’t be counted out until the final out.
With only one game to win, the Pirates have the Cardinals exactly where they want them: backed into a corner. The problem is, sometimes that’s where they perform the best.
When the two teams take to the field in Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon, the Cardinals' fate will rest in the hands of rookie pitcher Michael Wacha, who was pitching for Texas A&M only 15 months ago.
The Pirates will send right-handed hurler Charlie Morton to the mound in hopes of clinching. If it doesn’t happen on Monday, however, they have confidence in Gerrit Cole, who dominated the Cardinals Friday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals want a Game 5, but the Pirates should be looking to close things out.
Even with Cole on the mound, the Cardinals would throw Adam Wainwright in front of their home crowd, and that’s not a good situation for either team.
Following are a few points regarding what it would take each team to win NLDS Game 4.
The first key for the Cardinals is to keep doing exactly what got them into the postseason to begin with: hitting well with runners in scoring position.
The Cardinals' .330 RISP average had a lot to do with their domination in the regular season. A lack of batting with RISP has everything to do with the hole they’re in right now.
Through Game 3 of the NLDS, the Cardinals are batting .150 with RISP (3-for-20). While they have 10 runs when batting with RISP, that consistency has to be in place for them to stay alive in October.
It’s not a luxury anymore—it’s a must-have.
The radical defensive shifts we have seen all year from the Pirates might look funny on the field, but they have produced serious results.
Just ask Matt Adams about it. When they change gears with him at the plate, the results are both dramatic and effective.
The Pirates have operated this way all year and should stick by it in the postseason if they want to keep the season alive. As of Sunday evening, this series is theirs to lose.
The Cardinals are putting their entire season in Michael Wacha's hands on Monday afternoon. In many cases, this would sound berserk, but not for the Cardinals.
This team’s youth has been its saving grace all year. It has depended on young talent not only to come fill a roster spot, but to also make significant contributions to the team.
For the most part, that’s worked well.
This is a big weight to put on Wacha, but there’s a reason manager Mike Matheny wants him on the mound in this game—he has the stuff to win it.
The playoff stage is huge and wild. Attendance is measured by the number of sellout nights and media attention is measured in thousands instead of hundreds (or dozens).
In October, momentum is measured by the pitch—not the win. A team not completely accustomed to that experience could be overwhelmed and get tripped up.
The Pirates need to simply keep doing what they’ve been doing. Right now, they’re one win away from advancing, and this isn’t the time to let the heat get to them.
To this point, instead of being bothered by the attention, they seem to be feeding off of it. Elimination games are another story. If they’re going to win, they need to do it Monday.
The Cardinals came from behind for a win 29 times in the regular season. They fought back twice on Sunday but obviously didn’t get the win.
While their ideal situation would be to score early and often, that doesn’t always happen. The Cardinals need to keep their focus if they wind up down by a run or two.
Those things happen, and they’ve overcome it plenty of times. The best situation for the Cardinals would be to get on the board early and don’t get into a situation where a comeback is necessary.
The Cardinals need the Pirates chasing them Monday to bring the series back to St. Louis on Wednesday. If they can keep Sunday in their rear-view mirror, there’s no reason to expect anything less from them.
The Cardinals hit the ball well on Sunday but couldn’t consistently tie hits together.
Hitting in clusters has been the Cardinals’ game in 2013, and if the Pirates can catch them off-guard, they have a good chance to win this series.
The Cardinals are in a must-win situation and have the bats to turn it around. The best situation for the Pirates is to kick them while they’re down or they could wind up in an elimination game in St. Louis.
The Pirates need to wrap it up on Monday.