With one swing of the bat Monday afternoon in the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates NLDS Game 4, Andrew McCutchen could have turned it around and sent Pittsburgh directly to the NLCS.
After St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Michael Wacha knocked them down, the closing pitcher Trevor Rosenthal sealed the win, forcing a decisive Game 5.
Who has the advantage? The Cardinals—but don’t discount the Pittsburgh Pirates yet. They’re playing an elimination game for a reason and Gerrit Cole—their rookie who will be taking the mound—had a lot to do with it.
Cole was dominant in September and October when the Cardinals had their first glimpse of him. Now that they have met, the Cardinals should have a better plan of attack in place for how to hit him.
While I wouldn’t expect any type of offensive explosion, the Cardinals should hit him better tonight (partially because it’s not possible to hit him much worse).
Another thing to keep in mind is that this time Cole’s team won’t be facing Lance Lynn—they’ll have Adam Wainwright to contend with, and Wainwright loves these situations.
He also excels in them.
In 14 postseason games, Wainwright is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 39.2 innings pitched.
In his postseason career, which spans 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013, Wainwright has given up only 10 runs—eight of them came in 2012. In his first year returning from Tommy John surgery, adding an extra month to an already difficult season, likely didn’t make it any easier on him.
In those 39.2 innings pitched, he has 51 strikeouts, 6 BB, 6 HR and a 0.91 WHIP. While I have my misgivings about postseason stats, his not only mirror, but are an improvement on his regular season numbers.
With that said, several Pirates have hit Wainwright pretty well over the years, including Andrew McCutchen (13-for-31), Russell Martin (10-for-27), Garrett Jones (8-for-28) and Clint Barmes (7-for-23).
Despite the career numbers of a few key Pirates against Wainwright, I still like the Cardinals chances today. Elimination games are nothing new to this team. They’ve won them and they’ve lost them.
They know what tonight will be like—crazy.
All of the talk this week has been about the Pittsburgh fans, but Busch Stadium comes alive for clinch and or elimination games. The Cardinals feed off of their fans in these situations (hence all of the value placed on home-field advantage).
The question is: How will Gerrit Cole handle it? My guess is he will do fine, and tonight will be a low scoring game.
Scoring early and often will be a must because it’s entirely possible that the team to score three runs tonight will move on.
Regardless of how it ends, sit back and enjoy another special October night in St. Louis. Don’t take it for granted.
All stats current through Oct. 9, 2013 from Baseball-Reference.com