Surprising Pirates to take on Cardinals
ST. LOUIS - Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates are riding high from their first postseason victory in 21 years.
And now, after beating the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card game, the Pirates are set to face another familiar foe in an unfamiliar month: the NL Central champion Cardinals in October. Game 1 of their division series is Thursday in St. Louis.
The Cardinals edged the Pirates for the division title, with Pittsburgh winning the regular-season series, but they have quite the advantage in postseason experience.
Adam Wainwright has to like this matchup, too. St. Louis' ace is set to start the opener and will be available on regular rest for a possible deciding Game 5 against a team he went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts this season.
This is the first time the Pirates and Cardinals have met in the postseason. The Cardinals swept a pivotal three-game series at Busch Stadium Sept. 6-8 in which they outscored the Pirates, 26-10. St. Louis was 3-7 in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals were 6-0 on the final homestand and were 54-27 overall at Busch Stadium, the second-best home record in the majors.
St. Louis faced long odds of making it to the postseason after losing longtime ace Chris Carpenter, closer Jason Motte, and shortstop Rafael Furcal to season-ending injuries before the season even started.
The Cardinals' 97 wins are the most for the franchise since the 2005 team won 100.
The pressure was always on during the regular season, and the Cardinals pulled away at the finish from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati after never leading by more than four games nor trailing by more than four.
Despite losing his job as closer in mid-September, Edward Mujica was kept on the roster.