The Cardinals and Pirates will meet this week for a colossal five game set at PNC Park. This series will be vital in determining who the winner of the N.L. Central will be, and for helping us to gauge just how good the Pirates really are this year. The Pirates dropped two of three to the Marlins in their most recent series, and the Cardinals got swept by Atlanta.
Game One: Jake Westbrook (7-4, 2.95) Vs. Francisco Liriano (10-4, 2.23): Westbrook has struggled against the Pirates in his career, posting a record of 1-7, with an ERA of 4.81, over fourteen starts against the Bucs. Liriano only has one career start against the Cardinals, he went seven innings, giving up four hits, and two runs.
Game Two: Tyler Lyons (2-3, 5.51) Vs. A.J. Burnett (4-7, 2.96): Lyons has never had a start against the Pirates before this series, 2013 is his first year in the big leagues. In each of his last four starts, he has given up at least four earned runs. Burnett is 2-0 against St. Louis this year, between his two starts he went thirteen innings, only giving up two runs. His last start was a rough one due to some shoddy defense, but he battled his way through it admirably.
Game Three: Lance Lynn (12-5, 3.98) Vs. TBA: In the second game of a Tuesday doubleheader, Lance Lynn will start for St. Louis. Against the Pirates in his career, he’s 4-1 with an ERA of 4.23. We weren’t able to find any stats on TBA, but we understand that the Bluth family held a couple of gala fundraisers for it, which were quite successful.
Game Four: Adam Wainwright (13-6, 2.51) Vs. Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.15): Wainwright has been stellar this year, but against the Pirates in his career, he’s been a bit less successful. Against Pittsburgh he holds a record of 8-4, with an ERA of 5.20. In three of his five starts this month, he’s given up four runs. In his one career start against the Cardinals, Jeff Locke threw seven innings of shutout ball en route to a win. Locke hasn’t given up any more than two earned runs over his last eight starts.
Game Five: Joe Kelly (1-3, 3.44) Vs. Charlie Morton (3-2, 3.59): Kelly is 0-2 against the Pirates during his young career, with an ERA of 6.43. He’s pitched in five games against the Pirates, but has only started one. Charlie Morton has struggled against the Cardinals in his career as well, going 2-7, with a 6.17 ERA. He has not pitched against the Cardinals this year, but the Pirates have won his last three starts.
Cardinals Players To Watch:
Yadier Molina: Molina is always going to be a key player in series like this one, and as the second leading hitter in the N.L. this year, he’s still the real deal. Molina is having a career year at the plate, batting .334/.379/.486, and he’s still a stellar defensive catcher as well. He’s not quite Pujols, but he’s deserving of a reputation as a Pirate killer.
Matt Carpenter: Carpenter is one of the leading hitters in the N.L. like Molina, but over the last week, he’s struggled at the plate, batting .208/.296/.250. If the Pirates are going to win this series, they must make certain that Carpenter stays cold.
Matt Holliday: After some time on the DL, Holliday was reactivated this weekend in Atlanta. Holliday is a career .298/.346/.489 hitter at PNC Park, so he is another scary bat for the Pirates to deal with over this mega-series with St. Louis.
Pirates Players To Watch:
Pedro Alvarez: Alvarez has been hot over the last week, batting .304/.385/.565, it’s been interesting to watch Pedro’s progression as a player. He’s always been streaky, but this year the hot streaks have gotten longer, and the cold ones have been shorter. Although he’s been hot, this year against the Cardinals, Alvarez is batting .211/.238/.211.
Starling Marte: Marte has been ice cold over the last week or more, but this might be a perfect opportunity for him to bust the slump. He’s hit .381/.458/.524 against the Cardinals over his brief career.
Jordy Mercer: Mercer is on fire over the last couple of weeks, hitting .379/.471/.517 over the last fourteen days. His recent production has been excellent, and has been one of the few bright points on a weak and inconsistent Pirates offense recently.
The Pirates play the Cardinals fourteen more times this season, including this five game set. They hold a 3-2 advantage in the season series so far.
The Pirates need to win four of five games from the Cardinals to take the outright lead on the division coming out of the series.
If the Pirates make any kind of deadline moves, they will be during this series. Any players they may acquire are unlikely to factor in the series, but there’s a chance they could have a new player or two for the last game on July 31st, if any moves are made today or tomorrow.