Francisco Liriano is coming off a great season, and the Pirates would be smart to sell high and look for the next Liriano. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

First Pitch: Now the Pirates Have the Advantage Against St. Louis

Francisco Liriano could give the Pirates a 2-1 series lead on Sunday. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Francisco Liriano could give the Pirates a 2-1 series lead on Sunday. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

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.

Links and Notes

**8 Important Moments from Gerrit Cole’s Playoff Win

**Gerrit Cole Should Be the Game Five Starter

**Pedro Alvarez and Justin Morneau vs the RHP Heavy Cardinals

**MLB Announces NLDS Game Four and Five Start Times

**Pirates Beat the Cardinals 7-1 to Even the Series

**Game 2 Starter Lance Lynn: Fastball Devil The Pirates Know

**What Kind of Pressure Will Gerrit Cole Have as a Rookie in the Playoffs?

**Pirates/Cardinals Game Two Lineups — Mercer Replaces Barmes

**Pirates Focus on Game 2 Bounceback, Avoiding 2-0 Deficit

**Dusty Baker Out as the Manager in Cincinnati

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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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  • Dom DiDominic

    Wild Card forces the Pirates #2 v Cards #1 in gm. 1. Then our #2 v Cards #3; both in St.Louis. A Split was a win!
    Sunday we have our #1 at home v Cards #3. This is a huge advantage, but also is a must win. Game four will set up our #4 v Cards #4 at home. Also, in PNC. No one wants to go back to St.Louis and, once again, we turn to Liriano.

    Both advantage and pressure turn to Pittsburgh.

  • leadoff

    I can see a scenario where the Cards win in 4 or 5 and I can see a scenario where the Pirates win in 4, not likely 5. So to me it looks like advantage Cards. IMO, you kind of know what you are going to get from the Cards, but don’t really know what your going to get from the Pirates, Liriano is no sure thing, he has had a tendency to implode and Morton is a total unknown against the Cards, especially against as many left handers as they have. I just don’t like Morton against the Cards.

  • Bucco_Joe

    I agree the matchup of Morton versus the Cards is terrible for the Pirates. If I were Hurdle, I would be tempted to pitch AJ on short rest Monday in hopes of getting 4 innings out of him, and then turn it over to the bullpen.

    Game 3 is a must for the Pirates, even winning Game 4 would put them in a bad position going on the road against Wainwright regardless of the Pirate starter.

  • William Beckley

    I’d still say it’s no better than even, for the following reasons:

    Pirates have the clear advantage in Liriano vs. Kelly. This is indeed a must-win.

    However, the Pirates presently look to be underdogs in Games 4 and 5. I don’t consider Morton vs. Wacha to be a toss-up. Both sample sizes are very small, but Wacha, in 2 appearances against the Bucs, has 9 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, and 0 ER. On the other hand, Morton against the Cards this season has produced 13.2 IP, 23 H, 5 BB and 12 ER. While a small sample, that sure doesn’t feel very toss-up to me, and leans strongly Cards.

    Finally, Hurdle has yet to indicate that Cole would start in place of Burnett. While there’s no reason for Hurdle to make this announcement prior to Wednesday, I will remain concerned until the moment it’s official that Cole is starting. If Hurdle decides to run Burnett out there, figuring he has Cole ready to go out of the ‘pen, it’s a loss. The Bucs simply won’t be able to afford to give up a few runs to find out if Burnett has it when Wainwright is on the other side (his history at Busch, against the Cards, and in the postseason generally all indicate he will not have it).

    So in conclusion, if the Cole is going to get the nod on Wednesday, then I think neither team has an advantage overall (Pirates have the advantage in game 3, Cards have it in game 4 against Morton, and pitching duel in game 5 that’s even). If Burnett is getting the start, the Cardinals have a clear advantage in the series.

  • Andrew

    There is an advantage, it is small, like a 54% raw win probability, but it is an advantage. It will be interesting to see Liriano and Morton versus the Red birds lineup. Only Molina and Freese have been better against LHP as compared to RHP. Morton has struggled with LHH so the concern about Beltran, Adams, and Carpenter is reasonable.

    Wacha is a fastball, change up, pitcher, he is good but he is not Gerrit Cole. The Cardinals have been somewhat forced into this position of starting both he and Kelly because Shelby Miller is broke, Jake Westbrook was Jake Westbrook, and Carpenter was never able to recover from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Wacha and Kelly have performed admirably, but neither is a good as their ERAs, but it is one game, the tyranny of playoffs.

    • Andrew

      Wow, just found this Pirates worst team in league against change up, this might alter my priors

  • Israel P.

    Can we count Mark Appel among the losers in the Buccos’ run?

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