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.
The Pirates are happy to be in the postseason.
The @Cardinals take care of business in the postseason.
— ESPN (@espn) October 3, 2013
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
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.”
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.
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.