There might not be a game five in the NLDS between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals. Either team could win the next two games at PNC Park, although you’d think the Pirates would have a strong chance at one game with Francisco Liriano vs Joe Kelly. If there is a game five, then the last two days have shown that the starting pitcher for the Pirates in that game should be Gerrit Cole.
This isn’t just about one game performances, although if it was there would be no question that Cole should start over A.J. Burnett, who would be the regularly scheduled starter. Instead, this is about several other starts for each player.
For A.J. Burnett, it’s about five different starts. Those would be the five career starts he has at Busch Stadium, where he has combined for a 13.50 ERA in four regular seasons starts, plus his start in game one of this series.
Or you could also look at seven different starts. Those are the seven starts Burnett made on the road in the final two months of the season, where he combined for a 5.62 ERA. That’s including an eight inning, one earned run start at the end of the year.
For Gerrit Cole, it’s about six starts. Cole has made six starts from the beginning of September through today. In those starts he has a 1.66 ERA in 38 innings, with a 44:11 K/BB ratio. He has been dominant, and it’s not just against bad teams. We saw today that he can also dominate one of the best teams in the league.
Or it could be about seven starts for Cole. The rookie had seven starts on the road this year during the regular season, with a 2.38 ERA in 45.1 innings. He continued that road success today.
If it comes down to a game five, then the entire season will be only about one start. In that situation, you want Gerrit Cole — who has been dominant lately, great on the road, and beat the Cardinals today in Busch Stadium — over A.J. Burnett — who struggles at Busch Stadium, and has struggled on the road in general in the last few months. If the Pirates get down to that one game, then Gerrit Cole is the guy who gives them the best chance to win.