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October 10, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

NLDS Game Five Recap: Cardinals 6, Pirates 1

by R.J. Anderson

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The Cardinals will play in the NL Championship Series for the third consecutive postseason. Their advancement comes after a Game Five victory over the Pirates, in which, fittingly, Adam Wainwright, David Freese, and Matt Adams played large roles.

Wainwright—in addition to being one of the last remaining links to the 2006 World Champions squad—delivered another stellar outing to go with his Game One gem. Altogether, the big righty finishes the series by pitching 16 innings, allowing one run, walking one, and fanning 15. He threw his monster curveball 48 times on Wednesday night—or about 45 percent of the time—and at least once in 25 of his 27 multi-pitch plate appearances. Wainwright threw strikes and kept the ball on the ground, and while he allowed eight singles, the Pirates only had three runners reach scoring position.

While Wainwright shut down the Pirates, it was Freese who delivered the first offensive blow. The third baseman best known for his postseason heroics went just 1-for-3 on the night before being removed for a defensive sub, but delivered a two-run home run in the second inning off a poor 1-2 breaking ball from Gerrit Cole. Credit is due to Jon Jay for battling Cole to an eight-pitch walk the batter before; he fell behind 1-2, then managed to foul off two tough pitches before walking and keeping the inning alive.

Finally, there was Adams. He clobbered a first-pitch cutter from Mark Melancon in the eighth to widen the Cardinals' lead to 5-1. St. Louis would add another, but it was Adams who delivered the gut punch to the Pirates' chances while simultaneously reminding everyone about St. Louis' enviable player development system. Lest we forget the Cardinals won this series without Allen Craig, who finished the season ranked third on the team in True Average.

Of course, for all the praise heading St. Louis' way, it's worth giving Pittsburgh some shine as well. The fielded a quality team and were a win away from advancing. Cole outpitched the final score, and probably would've pitched deeper into the game were it not for his spot in the order coming up in the sixth. Clint Hurdle tried generating offensive by inserting Garrett Jones as a pinch-hitter. That failed, and in the end the Pirates just couldn't scratch across enough versus Wainwright to win the series.

Now Pittsburgh heads into the winter facing higher expectations than before. Many veterans, including A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd, are headed for free agency, leaving the Pirates to ponder succession plans. What it all means for the Pirates and their competitive aspirations in 2014 is for another day. For now, their fans should reflect on a wonderful season and cherish the high points. Cherish having a team good enough to make the playoffs and look the part on the national stage. Those who do will understand why St. Louis is special.

And, as for the Cardinals, they'll open the NLCS against the Dodgers on Friday. Expect to see Zack Greinke toe the rubber against Lance Lynn in Game One.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

30 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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drawbb
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Now that's an NLCS I wouldn't watch for any reason. Can a team worth rooting for please advance a round again sometime before doomsday?

Oct 09, 2013 23:00 PM
rating: -7
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Thanks, drawbb - we're all very concerned what you think

Oct 09, 2013 23:33 PM
rating: 0
 
drawbb

You missed my point: It's that all the bona fide underdogs keep getting knocked out in the first round lately. As a neutral fan whose team is never in contention, I have nothing left worth rooting for when each postseason keeps devolving into one privileged team against another.

Oct 10, 2013 11:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

Not really much of a baseball fan, are you?

There has never been a game between two teams that I haven't been able to enjoy, because I always love baseball!

Oct 10, 2013 05:14 AM
rating: 3
 
drawbb

So as a Dodger fan, I presume you were equally ecstatic to watch a Giants/Angels World Series in 2002? Come on, is anybody here an actual FAN with teams they love and hate...or is it all just cold analysis and indifferent appreciation?

Oct 10, 2013 11:09 AM
rating: -3
 
therealn0d

This is a math site, not a baseball site. :rollseyes:

Oct 10, 2013 12:34 PM
rating: -3
 
BirdlandPGH

I agree with you with one exception: any Yankees game in which either Tim McCarver and Joe Buck or the regular Yankees announcers are calling the game. But thankfully my tv has a mute button, so I don't run into that problem too much anymore.

Oct 10, 2013 12:50 PM
rating: 0
 
fawcettb

There's still the A's in the AL, and Jim Leyland's still smoking cigarettes in the Tigers' clubhouse. And the Pirates were a lot of fun even if all that's left to root for in the NL is money or machines.

Oct 10, 2013 03:02 AM
rating: 3
 
BrianGunn
(439)

The Cardinals are... machines? Please clarify.

Oct 10, 2013 09:09 AM
rating: 0
 
rwp9843

He meant juggernauts.

Oct 10, 2013 10:18 AM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

I used to be agnostic as to the question of whether pitchers should hit or if there should be universalization of the DH. I am now firmly on the side of the DH. Watching Cole get lifted after five strong innings so that the Pirates could put a bat in the hands of a useful hitter instead of the pitcher robbed us all of a great pitcher's duel.

Oct 10, 2013 04:11 AM
rating: 5
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I'm pro-DH as well, but to play devil's advocate, I think the anti-DH'ers would say that the decision to bat or lift Cole is the very thing they prefer, b/c it adds another dimension of strategy.

Oct 10, 2013 09:11 AM
rating: 3
 
R.A.Wagman

I'm all for strategy, but not at the expense of seeing better baseball by more talented players.

Oct 10, 2013 09:38 AM
rating: 3
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I totally agree. But I do understand the other side.

Oct 10, 2013 09:48 AM
rating: 1
 
BirdlandPGH

I think Clint Hurdle, not the lack of a DH, is responsible for lifting Cole there. It was way too early and not the appropriate situation (e.g., runners in scoring position and two outs) anyway.

Oct 10, 2013 12:52 PM
rating: -1
 
Dave from Pittsburgh

The Baseball gods are cruel. Life is meaningless. The universe is indifferent.

Oct 10, 2013 05:39 AM
rating: 4
 
Dodger300

But more likely, it's just that the Cardinals have the better team. I hope you can accept that.

Oct 10, 2013 06:35 AM
rating: -3
 
BirdlandPGH

Maybe, but a five-game series doesn't determine which team is better.

Oct 10, 2013 12:53 PM
rating: 1
 
Dodger300
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

The result of the short game series was identical to the result of the long 162 game regular season, as the Cardinals won the division by three games over the Pirates. It wasn't even especially close.

You seem to want it both ways. Despite losing the division, you're thrilled that a wild card saved the Pirates and allowed them to play a short series. Then you're upset that they lost the short series, too.

The truth is that the Pirates didn't win a thing. They lost both the long season and the short series to the same team.

The Cardinals did it all to prove they are the better team. But you can't handle the truth.

Oct 10, 2013 18:54 PM
rating: -5
 
drawbb

Nobody is in denial about the fact that St Louis is better. We all know that. St Louis is ALWAYS better.

What we're lamenting is that the whole thing just sucks for anybody neutral, who was hoping to inject some badly-needed freshness into the MLB playoffs. A team coming off a record 20 straight losing seasons is a rooting interest everybody can get behind. The last thing the sport needed was for that team to be knocked out by the franchise that's won more titles than anybody except the Yankees.

Oct 10, 2013 20:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

Nobody is in denial? I guess you missed BirdlandPGH's comment. He is surely in denial, claiming that a division series can't determine a thing.

Oct 10, 2013 20:40 PM
rating: -1
 
drawbb

I took his comment to mean exactly what it said...that a 5-game division series doesn't determine a better team. (It doesn't.) He simply left unsaid what does determine it, which is the very thing to which you alluded: The 6-month season.

Oct 10, 2013 22:46 PM
rating: 0
 
BirdlandPGH

Exactly.

Oct 11, 2013 07:13 AM
rating: -1
 
maphal

Great season for the Pirates. Considering they started the year with a rotation that included WandyRod, McDonald(!), and Sanchez(!!), they came a long way. McCutchen, Marte, and Cole are three players that any team would love to have. I do think that they will need to nail FA signings again to win 90+ games in 2014. Clint had to ride that bullpen pretty hard and he can't expect Locke and Gomez to repeat their 2013 seasons again. But the future is bright.

Oct 10, 2013 06:45 AM
rating: 4
 
R.A.Wagman

Speaking of "rode" bullpens, I think that Melancon has been toast for most of the last month. He has not looked like his stat line in a few weeks. Which makes some sense considering that he pitched 25 more innings this year than last.

Oct 10, 2013 06:56 AM
rating: 2
 
BirdlandPGH

There was no reason at all to bring Melancon into any postseason game. Everyone who had watched him pitch in September (except for, apparently, Clint Hurdle) knew that he was a liability out there on the mound. Whether it was physical or mental, I don't know, but he clearly couldn't get the job done any more.

Oct 10, 2013 12:54 PM
rating: -1
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I think the Baseball Gods are like "hey, we gave you 3 straight infield hits in the 7th inning - what more do you want us to do?"

Oct 10, 2013 09:22 AM
rating: 2
 
DetroitDale

Pirates had a great run, even though the season is over, I think they and their fans have earned a big celebration for breaking the playoff drought.

Now they need to build on that and day one of the free agent signing season drop a big bundle of cash on David Price and say, come to Pittsburgh, Be our Ace, and be a hero when you lead our team to the World Series.

Oct 10, 2013 08:15 AM
rating: 3
 
TGT969

Nah, no FA's. More bat out of middle infield, better lefty platoon at 1st, and trying to get Marte and Alverez to take a walk every so often. Pitching is fine;
plenty of arms coming and RF has a rookie star to fill in June or July.

Take a breath. I'm disappointed too. 2013 was magic!

Oct 10, 2013 09:52 AM
rating: 3
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I know this is small (and maybe obnoxious) consolation right now, but I can tell you as a Cards fan that it was so much sweeter to win it all after we had charged up the mountain and fell short in '00, '01, '02, '04, and '05. The Pirates will be back, and they have enough core talent and enough talent in the pipeline to win it all. When and if it happens, 2013 will just be part of the same epic voyage.

Oct 10, 2013 10:10 AM
rating: 1
 
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