Prior to the NLDS against the Cardinals, I wrote that St. Louis didn’t have an advantage over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That wasn’t me saying the opposite — that the Pirates had an advantage. It just pointed out that the two teams were pretty even, despite the feeling that the Pirates were underdogs in the series.
There were predictions that favored the Pirates prior to the series. A lot of those predictions relied on advanced stats, noting the defensive shifts by the Pirates, and noting the unsustainable RISP numbers by the Cardinals.
The Pirates went into St. Louis and played about as expected when you look at the overall results. I don’t think anyone was predicting 9-1 and 7-1 scores, but I think a lot of people would have predicted the Cardinals had the advantage in game one with Adam Wainwright, and the Pirates had a good chance in game two with Gerrit Cole pitching like an ace lately, and Lance Lynn struggling down the stretch. The Cardinals did take game one, and the Pirates took game two. So where does that leave us now?
Basically, it’s now a best of three series, and the Pirates have home field advantage with the next two games at PNC Park. One of those games will be started by Francisco Liriano, who is the ace of the staff and one of the best home starters in baseball this year. The other matchup isn’t as strong, as Charlie Morton has struggled against the Cardinals. Game five should feature Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals at home, but the Pirates could counter with Gerrit Cole, which could create a great pitcher’s duel. Assuming the Pirates win the Liriano start, they’d only need one win of the final two games, with both looking to be toss ups.
The Pirates aren’t guaranteed to win at all. But they do have the advantage. Taking a game from St. Louis on the road was huge, especially with Liriano starting game three. Now Liriano just has to win that game. If all goes well, the Pirates will enter next week with two chances to eliminate the Cardinals.
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