The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates will open a series with huge playoff implications on Friday night at Busch Stadium. The Pirates enter the series with a slim 1.5 game lead over the Cardinals for the NL Central division lead.
Both teams enter this series with injury issues. The Pirates will be without Starling Marte and Wandy Rodriguez, both have been on the DL for a while now. The Cardinals will be missing first baseman Allen Craig after he sprained his foot a few nights ago.
The Pirates have been using Jose Tabata in left field and having him bat lead-off since Marte was injured, and he has done a great job. The Cardinals haven’t had to play without Craig much — it will be interesting to see what happens to their offense without him in the lineup.
Obviously, the Cardinals are an extremely deep team. Matt Adams will step in as the first baseman and hit for a ton of power and drive in runs, so the Craig injury won’t have a huge impact. However, it is one less dangerous bat the Pirates’ pitching will have to face, and they need to take advantage of that.
Any time a .315/.373/.457 hitter with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs is taken out of a lineup, it could cause legitimate concerns; but, the Cardinals will find a way to maneuver their way through this while avoiding disaster.
If the Pirates can at least get one more win this weekend against the Cardinals because of Craig not being in the lineup, it will make a huge impact on the pennant race. Coming into the series with a 1.5 game lead with just over 20 games left, winning at least two out of three would extend that division lead, and put pressure on the Cardinals to make up a lot of ground over the last 15-20 games of the year.
Every game that goes by without the Pirates losing ground in the race is one less day the Cardinals have to gain that ground on the Bucs.