Kelly gets the ball for Game 3 -

Kelly gets the ball for Game 3

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By Scott Bierman By Scott Bierman

(BaseballStL) -- Joe Kelly was four years old when the Pirates last played meaningful baseball in October. On Sunday, the charismatic right-hander can hand Pittsburgh its first postseason loss on home turf in 21 years when the Cardinals arrive for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.

More importantly, a Cardinals win will put the Pirates one loss away from elimination in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

Friday’s Game 2 results, a 7-1 loss, won’t give Kelly any warm feelings before his first career postseason start. The Pirates offense got to Lance Lynn for five runs, including a Pedro Alvarez two-run blast, over 4 1/3 innings to even the series at one game apiece. It was a lopsided result from the Cardinals’ 9-1 Game 1 victory the day before.

“That’s how baseball is,” Kelly said. “On any given day, it can be a one-run game or ten-run game. You never know. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Kelly has been known for an even-keel demeanor to his approach and he doesn’t expect what he witnessed on Friday to take a hold of him come Sunday.

“I’ll look at the video and see what pitches they were hitting,” Kelly said. “I’m kind of similar to Lance, but obviously got a little different stuff. I kind of like to pick and choose, and see what these guys, how they’re taking hacks at certain pitches. I’ll let my game go from there.”

Kelly will need to be his even keel self, especially after the PNC Park faithful seemed to rattle Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the 6-2 wild-card victory with chants of “Cue-to! Cue-to! Cue-to!” But unlike most pitchers, Kelly thrives on the road atmosphere.

In 19 road appearances (seven starts), Kelly is 5-1 with a 2.07 earned-run average compared to a 5-4 home record with an earned-run average of 3.29 in 18 appearances (eight starts) at Busch Stadium.

Kelly said his approach will be simple: “Just go out there and pitch, pitch well and do what I can to get those guys out and don’t pay attention.”

It sounds simple enough. Simple is anything but what a win in Game 3 will be -- especially against Francisco Liriano.

Liriano, or as I refer to him as ‘Bud Norris x 2,’ has never lost to the Cardinals in four career starts, including three this season. His perfect record goes with a career 1.16 earned-run average, which is slightly higher than the 1.13 posted in three starts against St. Louis this season.

“The only time you’re going against Liriano is when he’s hitting,” Kelly said. “I’m focused on the hitters and will do what I can to get those guys outs.”

Game 3 starts at 3:30 p.m. (St. Louis time).

Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals, Blues and Rams for and its associated mobile apps (BaseballStL, HockeyStL and FootballStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news and updates.

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