Is there anything better than an elimination game in the MLB postseason?
Or if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or St. Louis Cardinals, is there anything more tense?
On Wednesday night, the division rivals will battle it out in Game 5 of their National League Division Series for the right to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. There isn't much separating these clubs, so the stage is set for another epic October matchup.
When: Wednesday, October 9, at 8:07 p.m. ET
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
Watch: TBS; TBS.com or your mobile device
Pittsburgh Starter: Gerrit Cole (1-0, 1.50 ERA, five strikeouts this postseason)
St. Louis Starter: Adam Wainwright (1-0, 1.29 ERA, nine strikeouts this postseason)
Could these teams be more even?
The Cardinals were 97-65 in the regular season; the Pirates were 94-68. In 24 meetings, the Pirates hold a 12-11 edge. The Cardinals have scored 15 runs in the series; the Pirates have scored 14.
Boy oh boy, Game 5 is going to be fun.
The Cardinals have certain advantages, of course. According to the Associated Press, via ESPN, the Cardinals are "7-1 the last three years when facing postseason elimination." They not only have more postseason experience, but they also have the home crowd behind them.
Oh, and Wainwright is pretty darn good under the bright postseason lights. In five postseason starts in his career, he's 2-0 in 30 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts and just 10 earned runs allowed.
He'll face youngster Gerrit Cole, who dazzled in a Game 2 win for the Pirates. This has the looks of an old-fashioned pitching duel, especially considering the way both teams have hit.
For both teams, getting their table-setters at the top of the lineup will be key. Starling Marte for the Pirates and Matt Carpenter for the Cardinals each have just one hit and one walk in the series. If one of these two steps up, it could be the difference.
At least the stars have shown up. Carlos Beltran continues his history of dominating in the postseason, with two home runs and six RBI in this series. Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen has arguably been the best player for either team, hitting .412 with a .545 on-base percentage and scoring three runs.
And then there's Pedro Alvarez, who has mashed three home runs and knocked in six RBI.
In what is likely to be a low-scoring game, one swing of the bat could be the difference. So who will be the October hero?
Before this series began, I predicted the Cardinals would win in five. I can't back out of that pick now.
Which team wins?
At home, with plenty of experience in these situations and Wainwright on the mound, the Cardinals will be too tough for the upstart Pirates to beat.
The Cardinals win, 2-1.