It seems like a very long time ago when the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates were battling in a five game playoff series for the right to advance to the N.L. Championship. The Cardinals won that series in a decisive fifth game, eventually losing to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series last October. This year, things haven’t exactly followed the same line as a year ago. Both the Cards and the Bucs have come out slow to begin the year, and each team has had its fair share of troubles at the plate.
St. Louis is 3-3 so far in May, taking two of three against the Atlanta Braves after losing two of three to the Chicago Cubs. They are 18-17 on the season, good enough for second place in the N.L. Central division, trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by four games.
Traditionally, the Cardinals have always had a high powered offense, but so far in this young season, they have fallen well short of expectations. Matt Adams has come out strong with a batting average of .321 thus far, while Yadier Molina (.310) has cooled off after a red-hot start to the season. Jhonny Peralta (7 HR, 15 RBI) and Matt Holliday (22 RBI) continue to be major threats at the plate, but the power has simply not been there.
The strong suit of this team is the starting pitching, one of the main reasons why so many expect this team to be one of the last playing at the end of the year. Adam Wainwright continues to be one of the very best in all of baseball, posting a 6-2 record to go along with a 2.02 ERA and a WHIP of 0.93. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Cardinals’ ace will not be pitching this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Pirates haven’t exactly been a model of consistency to begin the 2014 season. Andrew McCutchen is well on his way to having another standout season (.321 avg, 4 HR, 18 RBI), but the rest of the offense is unreliable and inconsistent. Pedro Alvarez has his power numbers up (8 HR, 22 RBI), while Starling Marte (.266) and Neil Walker (.254) have shown improvement at the plate as of late during the Pirates’ current home stand.
As is the case with most teams, the starting pitching will determine how successful the Pirates will be this season. Early on, things don’t look all that promising. Francisco Liriano has struggled in every start other than Opening Day, while after a strong beginning, Edinson Volquez has had a rough couple of starts recently. Gerrit Cole has put together some nice starts, but he’s still growing as a Major League pitcher. The key to this team is the starting pitching and the bullpen, and neither has been nearly to the level of a year ago.
After a dreadful couple weeks, the Bucs have returned to winning baseball games on their recent home stand. After taking two of three games from both the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants, they welcome the Cards in for an intriguing three game weekend series, including a nationally televised matchup on Sunday night.
Cardinals (18-17, 2nd In N.L. Central) vs. Pirates (14-20, 4th In N.L. Central)
5/9 – Michael Wacha (STL) (2-3, 2.55 ERA, WHIP 1.16) vs. Francisco Liriano (PIT) (0-3, 4.54 ERA, WHIP 1.41)
5/10 – Lance Lynn (STL) (4-1, 3.51 ERA, WHIP 1.24) vs. Edinson Volquez (PIT) (1-3, 4.19 ERA< WHIP 1.14)
5/11 – Shelby Miller (STL) (4-2, 3.20 ERA, WHIP 1.47) vs. Charlie Morton (PIT) (0-4, 3.45 ERA, WHIP 1.26)
After a 4-2 mark to start this three-series home stand, the Pirates will look to close out this weekend with yet another series victory. The two teams have split the six games they’ve played against one another thus far, and with both Pittsburgh and St. Louis off to slow starts this season, this series could be a turning point for both teams. Be sure to check back here throughout the weekend for the latest recaps and reactions to each game from the Fans From The Stands!
Let’s Go Bucs!