Marlon Byrd

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

Leave it to Andrew McCutchen to provide an ounce of perspective following the Pirates’ first-ever NLDS loss.

“One team had to win, one team had to lose,” the Pirates center fielder said. “We’re the team that had to lose tonight.”

Hey, it’s not deep, but it’s true. The playoffs create a cauldron for The Narrative™ to emerge, no matter what that narrative is. And there is no better source of HOT SPORTS TAKES than the ESPN Twitter account, run by a line-break-happy monkey pumped up on artificial testosterone.

Logic takes a permanent holiday for ESPN social media.

Fact is, the Pirates can very easily even up the NLDS and force the Cardinals to play two games in suddenly-foreboding PNC Park. Game 2 will start a mere 18 hours after a fireworks celebration punctuated St. Louis’ 9-1 opening win.

“We got our butts whooped tonight,” McCutchen said. “But it might be a good thing we got beat like this tonight so we can show up tomorrow, shake it off, get a good night’s rest, get ready for the morning.”

Cole Makes Playoff Debut

Gerrit Cole Pirates

Gerrit Cole gets thrown right into the fire, trying to keep the Pirates from a 2-0 series deficit. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

How better to shake it off than by sending out the starting pitcher who rolled through September like a Sherman tank?

Gerrit Cole emphatically silenced any concerns about rookie arm fatigue down the stretch. The right-hander posted a 1.69 ERA and .524 OPS-against in his five September starts, notching 39 strikeouts in 32 innings with the help of an improved curveball.

“It’s still a really new pitch for me, but I’ve been able to throw it with more confidence and kind of just let it do what it may,” Cole said prior to Game 1. “I’ve had more opportunities to do that because of how I’ve been executing the other pitches, especially fastball command.”

Post-Wainwright

Thursday’s butt-whooping could be largely attributed to Adam Wainwright doing Adam Wainwright things for seven innings. He struck out nine Pirates hitters and walked none. The only hard hit was Pedro Alvarez’s solo home run because Missouri Law requires Pedro Alvarez to hit home runs during all daytime games in the state.

Marlon Byrd

Marlon Byrd and the Pirates offense will have to rebound fast. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Wainwright used his curveball 33 times for 11 whiffs from Pirates hitters, a breaking ball dropping off the table. The Bucs could not mount any kind of offensive surge, whether in a scoreless tie or trailing 7-0.

“He was really throwing the heck out of his curveball,” McCutchen said. “If we could’ve not swung at those pitches, let those pitches go, it could have definitely been a different ballgame, because that was a utilizer for him. That was the difference maker for his outing.”

After Pittsburgh acquired Marlon Byrd, the team had its best home-run month in September, socking 32 dingers. Then they followed it up with a home run from Byrd and two from Russell Martin in the Wild Card. The offense has been inconsistent, but boy can it power up.

The Bucs get Lance Lynn in Game 2, a man who is notably not named Adam Wainwright. That alone should give them a much better opportunity to win.

If nothing else, Game 2 can reveal the fickle nature of the playoffs. A few bounces of the baseball in Game 2 could prove all the difference between returning to Pittsburgh one loss from winter or all evened up. Amazing what 24 hours in St. Louis can do.

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James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/faye.zbuksukcz Faye Zbuksukcz

    Cards have tabbed Joe Kelly for Sunday. He’s the NL’s best road pitcher, so Frankie might need to throw all goose eggs. But if Cole is Cole and Frankie is Frankie, then Bucs are up 2-1 on Monday with Morton going against either Wacha or Miller. And if it’s Miller, Bucs are going to NLCS.

    Of course if Cole isn’t Cole and Frankie isn’t Frankie…

  • leadoff

    The Pirates are every bit as good as the Cards, the problem is management, you can call the games before they start, no hindsight needed. For example: Hurdle will start A.J. if they need a 5th game starter, he will get crocked, he will stay in the game until it is out of hand and that will be that, he has done it before and he will do it again, no hindsight needed. The only possible thing that could happen is if Huntington intervenes and that is highly unlikely. Hurdle is a veteran players manager, even to the point of taking a loss if necessary. I have said this before and I will say it again, Hurdle would be a good manager for the 27 Yankees, no moves necessary.

    • smurph

      If there is a Game 5 (I hope there is), the obvious choice there would be Cole, who would be on a regular 5-day cycle. Which ellicits the question “Who starts Game 4, Morton or Burnett”.

      • leadoff

        The Cards winning the division allows them to line up their pitching better than the Pirates can, the Pirates need another left hander, it appears that a left hander is the Cards Achilles tendon. Could the loss of Wandy and Lockes problems be bigger than anyone thought?

      • mak_dc

        Burnett would be on short rest for Game 4 so Morton is the obvious and easy call I think.

  • smurph

    It won’t be hard for the Pirates to wipe away Game 1 and get it back together. I am more worried about the Cardinals attitude. The confidence of their hitters has to be sky high right now, based not only on yesterday, but their last 7 games. The first 3 or 4 innings will be very key for Cole. If he can make the right pitches and put a sense of doubt in their hitters, then the Pirates have a chance.

    • leadoff

      I don’t know if the Cards will get big headed, they knocked Burnett around like they always do, but they did very little against the rest of the Pirate pitchers, there was one bad inning, after that the Cards did not do much more than the Pirates did, they actually did not do anymore than the Pirates did, they got 2 unearned runs after they feasted on Burnett. Proving what I have said all along, The Cards will destroy bad pitching, but they won’t hit good pitching any better than anyone else, if they change pitchers yesterday, the Pirates win.

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