First Pitch: How the Pirates Could Advance to the NLCS Today

Back on September 8th, the Pittsburgh Pirates faced the St. Louis Cardinals in a matchup that saw Charlie Morton go up against Michael Wacha. The results weren’t good for the Pirates.

Morton went 1.2 innings, giving up five runs on six hits. It was one of the few bad starts he had in August and September combined. The Pirates were shut down by Wacha, who threw seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks. The Cardinals ended up winning 9-2.

There are a few key differences between that game and the game we will see tomorrow that features the same pitchers. First, this game will be at PNC Park, while the September 8th game was in St. Louis. Then there’s the lineups. The game in September featured Garrett Jones instead of Starling Marte, and John Buck over Russell Martin. Tomorrow’s game will feature Martin and Marte. It will also feature an offense that has been red hot, compared to the early September offense from the Pirates, which was cold.

I’m not totally confident in the chances for the Pirates tomorrow. If you look at Charlie Morton’s numbers this year, there is only one team that he struggles against. That is St. Louis. This is the one matchup in the playoffs where I’m not confident in Morton. However, Morton does better at home than he does on the road, so I don’t think we’re going to see a blowout like last time. Michael Wacha also does worse on the road, with a 4.34 ERA. That’s a small sample of 18.2 innings, although his success against the Pirates this year is based on nine innings.

Because of the home/road splits, I think this game will be a lot closer than people think. And because I think it could be close, that will bring one strong factor of the Pirates into play: their ability to stay in games until the end. We saw this tonight. Carlos Beltran led the Cardinals back to tie the score twice against the Pirates, yet they still pulled ahead. We’ve seen this all year from the Pirates in games where they’ve had to battle back late to get a win.

This is a good Pirates team. In the past, the thinking was that if the Pirates were going up against a good starter, they stood no chance. That was true then, but it’s not true now. This is a team that is one win away from the NLCS. They won 94 games. Their offense is clicking right now, and they’re one of the best home teams in baseball. The Pirates can hang with any good team. I think tomorrow will be close, with the Cardinals having an edge on paper. However, as we’ve seen all year, if it’s close, the Pirates have a very real chance to win.

Links and Notes

**Pirates Take 2-1 Lead Over Cardinals: Five Key Moments From Tonight’s Win

**Why Russell Martin is the Pirates’ Early Postseason MVP

**Three Situations the Pirates Bench, Bullpen Could Prove Crucial

**Pirates/Cardinals Game Three Lineups – Liriano Has the Advantage

**Joe Kelly – Regression Candidate

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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