PITTSBURGH PIRATES (95-68)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (97-65)
National League Division Series, Best of 5 - Game 1
First pitch: Thursday, 5:05 p.m. ET
Line: St. Louis -150, Pittsburgh +140, Total: 6.5
After beating the Reds in the one-game Wild Card playoff on Tuesday, the Pirates will look to continue their magical 2013 run as they head to St. Louis Thursday for the first game of their National League Division Series.
A.J. Burnett (10-11, 3.30 ERA) will lead Pittsburgh into battle for this one, having pitched quite well this season despite his sub-.500 win-loss record. He gets a difficult matchup though against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA), who didn't lose in his final five starts of 2013. Itís difficult playing the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, where they owned a 54-27 record (.667, 2nd in majors). However, the Pirates finished the season with a stellar 44-37 mark (.543, T-3rd in majors) on the road. These NL Central rivals played 19 times in 2013 with the Pirates winning 10 of those games. But they went just 3-6 in St. Louis, including getting outscored 26 to 10 in a three-game sweep from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8.
Burnett (1.21 WHIP) finished his season strong with three consecutive quality starts, giving up five earned runs in 21.2 innings (2.08 ERA). The veteran righty whiffed 209 batters in 191 innings with his overpowering stuff, but he sometimes struggles to control it with 67 walks. At the same time, batters have a tough time connecting against him with a .231 BA and just 11 home runs in 2013. He was also significantly worse on the road with a 4.22 ERA and 5-7 record. He started against the Cardinals six times in 2013, going 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA and limiting St. Louis hitters to a .213 BA. In 17 career starts against St. Louis he has an 8-6 record, 4.11 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. But Burnett has been horrendous in four career visits to Busch Stadium, all since 20012, posting a 13.50 ERA (24 ER in 16 IP) and 2.31 WHIP, while allowing the Cards to hit .408 with a 1.130 OPS in front of their home fans. Burnett does have some guys like C Yadier Molina (4-for-25, 2 K's), 3B David Freese (1-for-11, 5 K's) and 1B Allen Craig (2-for-12, 3 K's) figured out, but others such as OF Carlos Beltran (.318 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 44 AB) and 2B Matt Carpenter (.429 BA, 1.234 OPS in 21 AB) have gotten the best of him. Behind him, Burnett has one of the best bullpens in baseball. Pirates relievers have picked up 55 saves (2nd in MLB) with a 2.89 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, both of which rank third-best in the majors. That bullpen could be key given that in seven career postseason starts, Burnett is 2-2 with a subpar 5.08 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
Wainwright (1.07 WHIP), unlike Burnett, is known for his postseason success. While much of it came while pitching out of the bullpen in the Cardinalsí 2006 World Series run, he has a career 2.48 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 32.2 innings, totaling 13 outings. Four of those appearances were starts, all coming in the 2009 and 2012 postseasons, when he went 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 27 K's in 23 innings. This season, Wainwright led his team to a 23-11 record (.676) while fanning 219 batters in an MLB-most 241.2 innings and displaying impeccable control with only 35 walks. He was also notably better at Busch Stadium this year where he had a 2.53 ERA and kept opponents to a .217 BA and .314 slugging percentage. He started against the Pirates three times this year, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 20 K's in 21 innings. He has not always been so good against them, however, with a 4.81 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 22 career appearances (18 starts) against Pittsburgh. The Cardinals bullpen finished the season with a 3.45 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, both of which were 12th-best in the majors.