(BaseballStL) -- Blind faith in your team is a lovely way to watch a game. No worries, no anticipation, no concern; just trust that somehow, they’ll find a way to win.
Those folks may not find a lot here to read.
For everyone else, here’s what you need to know about the Pittsburgh Pirates in the upcoming five game series to see who moves on to the NLCS.
How do the Cardinals beat them?
First, don’t let them get four runs. That’s imperative. The Pirates are 69-17 when they score at least four runs and just 25-51 when they don’t. Double plays become even more important and so does keeping lead-off men off the base paths, something Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn occasionally have trouble doing.
Secondly, stay out of the big inning. The Bucs are 55-4 when they build a three-run lead. Their defense is superb and they have one of the best bullpens in baseball so the 55-4 record with a three-run lead should not be surprising.
To stay out of the big inning, one key is to keep the first two batters in the order off base. How? With Starling Marte, be careful on the first pitch; he’s hitting nearly .400. From there, it looks like he’s a guess hitter. Once he’s got two strikes, he is just barely above the Mendoza line.
Neil Walker just needs to see strikes. Busch Stadium is Walker’s Daddy, as Pedro Martinez would say. Walker hits just .172 at Busch and once he’s has two strikes, he might as well sit down. He couldn’t hit any worse from there than he does at the plate.
Third, recognize who is killing the Cardinals, namely Russell Martin, Garrett Jones and Jose Tabata.
Martin is about hitting his weight for the year but .300 against us, with six dingers and 11 RBIs. He also had two Tuesday night against the Reds and you can bet he’ll be playing Thursday.
When Jones faces the Birds, it’s like batting practice. He’s hitting .233 for the year but 100 points higher against us with eight extra base hits and 11 RBIs. How do you beat him? He hits a ton on the first two pitches in the count. After that, he’s toast. Change the sequence.
Tabata may move to St. Louis. He’s batting .391 at Busch. If he’s in the line-up, don’t take him for granted.
Fourth, don’t pitch Shelby Miller. Miller is 0-4 against the Pirates with an ERA over 5. Joe Kelly is 3-1 against the Bucs so the fourth starter should be Michael Wacha who threw nine innings and gave up no runs and two hits against them.
What are our advantages?
First, the Pirates don’t play well in day games and both of the first two games at Busch are in sunlight. The Pirates are just 30-28 in day games and the Cards are 33-16. And, just being home is a big plus for the Redbirds; they are 54-27 here.
Second, the Pirates as a whole don’t hit well at Busch. Andrew McCutcheon is hitting .276 in St. Louis, and the Cards’ pitchers have struck him out 17 times. Justin Morneau is 0-10 here (1-13 against the Cards). Pedro Alvarez has whiffed 23 times and is hitting just .184. So don’t pitch them too fine, walk a few and let Martin beat us with a blast.
Third, the Redbirds will only have to face Francisco Liriano once. He’s 3-0 against us this year. And, we could pitch Adam Wainwright twice if the series goes five games.
So, either agonize over every count to every hitter like most of us or just sit back and tell yourself that somewhere, the final score is already written down.