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Ready, set, go. National League Division Series Playoffs begins Thursday night in St. Louis. Pittsburgh scorched the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in a one game Wild Card to advance.
2013 is Pittsburgh's first playoff appearance since 1992 and Pirates fans were ready, willing and able participants. They're boisterous energies taunted Cincinnati's starting pitcher all night. Perhaps their energy caused an ineffective Cueto to drop the baseball in between pitches? Now it's off to play the Cardinals in NLDS action.
Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
Bucktober baseball opens up with A.J. Burnett who went 3-1 against the Cardinals this season taking on Adam Wainwright (1-0 in 3 starts vs Pit). Both hurlers feature knee buckling off speed stuff to compliment electric fastballs. Hitters for both teams could be in for a long night if these guys bring their A games. Bucs haven't chosen a Game 2 starter against Lance Lynn. Lirano starts Game 3 back in Pittsburgh where he's been dominant all season. Both teams employ stingy bullpens. Situational pitching will dictate the day.
Pittsburgh is fired up. Hitters are in the zone. Lead off man Marte's hand healed and he's seeing the ball well. Neil Walker is raking. McCutcheon is MVP candidate. Morneau's due for a power surge. Byrd has been exceptional since being stolen from the Mets. 3B Alvarez is a streaky ball masher. Russell Martin crushed 2 round-trippers in the WC game. SS split of Barmes/Mercer shouldn't be taken for granted. Pirates are feeling it having won 4 straight. Big test coming up on the road against Wainwright.
Cardinals hitters have produced many thrilling playoff games in recent years. However, Mr. Clutch Allen Craig's foot injury will keep him out of NLDS action. Craig was hitting an astonishing .454 with 83 RBI in only 130 AB with runners in scoring position. Clubbing .700 with bases loaded on 7 of 10 with 20 RBI. A serious MVP candidate before injury. Probable Game 1 lineup features 55 double man Carpenter leading off followed by prime time playoff hitter Carlos Beltran (RF). LF Matt Holliday (.300) is 3rd. Allen's replacement Matt Adams at 1B slugging .505. The Cards Mr October Molina bats 5th (.373 RISP). CF Jon Jay (.351 OBA) followed by 3B Freese. Starting SS remains to be seen between Descalso and Kosma. Cards lineup is very talented, very clutch and no strangers to playoff baseball.
Prediction: Best of 5 series has all the makings of going the distance. Cards hitters possess more patience meaning they don't necessarily chase bad pitches. Cards clutch lineup feast on opposing pitchers mistakes. A deadly combination in post-season play (and for a team riding a 6 game win streak). This all goes away if Burnett's on his game but he's known to throw many pitches so fatigue factor likely comes into play. NLDS destined for 5. If Liriano (3-0, 0.75 vs StL) pitches Game 5 then Bucs advance.