The last time these two teams met was near the end of August last season. The Pirates took two out of three, including consecutive shutouts to close the series. The three starting pitchers (A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald) combined to allow 12 hits in 18.2 innings.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spoke afterward about the consecutive shutouts:
"It sure doesn't hurt," said Hurdle, whose pitching staff could not have rediscovered its missing mojo at a better time. "You go against that offense and put 18 zeros on the board ... I couldn't be prouder of them. The two starts [James McDonald had done the honors in Tuesday's 9-0 win] was just what we needed. The bullpen action followed through."
The Pirates just swept a three game set from the Cincinnati Reds, a series that saw Pittsburgh raise its collective batting average from .156 to .203. Despite pitching well for the third time in a row to open the season, staff ace A. J. Burnett remains winless despite leading the major leagues with 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. And of course, last night was freaking awesome.
The Cardinals are coming off a near-sweep over the cellar dwelling Milwaukee Brewers (who scored in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings to complete a comeback). St. Louis pitchers limited the Brewers to zero runs on six hits through their first two games before allowing 12 hits yesterday. The Cardinals had allowed one run over the past four games before the loss.
All-Time Record: Pirates lead series 1211-1150 This season: 0-0 Last season: Pirates won, 8-7
Pittsburgh Pirates: 6-6, tied for second in NL Central, tied for ninth in NL, tied for 14th in Major Leagues. Last five: W-L-W-W-W, on pace for 81-81, Playoff odds: 21.7%
St. Louis Cardinals: 7-5, first in NL Central, tied for third in NL, tied for fifth in Major Leagues. Last five: W-W-W-W-L, on pace for 95-67, playoff odds: 66.9%
Jack-of-all-trades Ty Wigginton spent two seasons with Pittsburgh, hitting .237 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI in 115 games between 2004 and 2005.
Andrew McCutchen will move into a tie for 91st (with Bobby Byrne) on Pittsburgh’s all-time list with his 590th game played. He tied Bill Kuehne in 77th with his 2208th at bat yesterday. With 639 hits, he has tied Phil Garner in 71st place. One more home run will give him 85, moving him past Arky Vaughan into 27th. With his 128th double last night, he passed Pep Young, Ginger Beaumont, and Jim Russell into 55th all time.
Garrett Jones may catch Maurice Van Robays in 95th place on the all-time list with his 1844th at bat. With two RBI, he will tie Phil Garner in 78th. A walk will give him 175, moving him past Tony Pena and Frank Tavares into 82nd.
Jose Tabata will break a tie with George Van Haltren and Doc Johnston with his next steal, number 44, moving him into a tie for 84th with Jimmy Williams.
James McDonald will make his 74th start, moving him into a tie for 87th with Nelson Briles and Emil Yde. He has 363 career strikeouts and is in 61st all-time. Tommie Sisk has 366, Pink Hawley has 367, Al Mamaux has 369, Claude Hendrix has 371, and Dave Giusti has 373, so McDonald has a chance to move way up the list.
Jason Grilli has eight career saves, and is tied in 67th. With his ninth, he’ll move into a tie for 62nd with Larry French, Bob Klinger, Don Gross, and Juan Pizarro.
Nobody will celebrate a birthday during this series, but Chris Leroux turned 29 yesterday.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Average: Starling Marte - .347, Garrett Jones - .314, Travis Snider - .304 Home Runs: Andrew McCutchen, Michael McKenry – 2 RBI: Andrew McCutchen – 10, Starling Marte – 7, Neil Walker – 5 K: AJ Burnett – 27, James McDonald – 9, Mark Melancon - 8
St. Louis Cardinals: Average: Matt Adams - .611, Matt Carpenter - .319, Yadier Molina - .271 Home Runs: Matt Adams – 3, Yadier Molina, Jon Jay – 2 RBI: Matt Holliday – 9, Carlos Beltran, Matt Adams – 8 K: Adam Wainwright – 24, Jaime Garcia – 19, Lance Lynn – 13
Presumably, we should see James McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez, and AJ Burnett take the mound over then next three games. I'm not a seer, but I don't think a two-games-to-one series victory is out of reach.