The Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans waited 21 years for a playoff victory, and now they have a chance to snap their 34-year playoff series drought in Game One of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
With a motivated and roaring crowd behind them and two home runs from catcher Russell Martin, the Pirates dropped the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in the wild-card elimination game on Tuesday night. Starter Francisco Liriano picked up the victory after throwing 90 pitches over seven innings, while right fielder Marlon Byrd knocked in two other runs. Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-3 with two singles, a run, and two walks.
Pittsburgh’s previous playoff victory was in 1992 in Game Six of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, with manager Jim Leyland and outfielder Barry Bonds part of the organization.
The Cardinals and their hard-hitting offense clinched the NL Central and home-field advantage for the series almost a week ago with a 7-0 victory against the Chicago Cubs. St. Louis went 10-2 in its last 12 regular season games, including six straight wins for their first division title since 2009.
Right-hander A.J. Burnett will take the mound for Pittsburgh, and the Cardinals counter with 19-game winner Adam Wainwright, who was tops on the team in ERA, strikeouts, and quality starts.
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First baseman Allen Craig and his 97 RBIs, along with outfielder Carlos Beltran’s 24 home runs were a huge part of St. Louis’s run in the division. The offense was ranked third in runs and on base percentage, and fourth in team batting average in the majors. Catcher Yadier Molina led St. Louis with a .319 average from behind the plate, and Matt Carpenter was tops in hits (199) and OBP (.392).
McCutchen and hard-hitting third baseman Pedro Alvarez anchor the Pirates. Alvarez reached career-highs with 36 home runs and 100 RBI, while McCutchen’s .317 average, 84 RBI, and 27 steals have earned him MVP consideration.
Pittsburgh holds a significant advantage with the second best ERA in the NL coming out of the bullpen. Righty Jason Grilli posted 33 saves, seventh best in the NL, and Mark Melancon totaled 26 holds.
Cardinals relievers totaled a 3.45 ERA for eighth best in the NL, though Edward Mujica was fifth in the league with 37 saves.
Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on TBS, or watch their free live online stream on TBS.com here.
Betting Odds: St. Louis favored by 1.5 runs
Over/Under: 6.5 runs
Prediction: Pittsburgh 5-3