St. Louis Cardinals Have Distinct Advantage Over Pittsburgh Pirates

Jeff Curry, USA TODAY SPORTS

The St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central in 2013 in a tight race with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. Now, the Cardinals are set to reap the benefits of being the division winner.

St. Louis had the chance to watch the one-game Wild Card playoff game between the Pirates and Reds on Tuesday night. And while those teams were sending out perhaps their two best pitchers (Johnny Cueto and Francisco Liriano), the Cardinals’ starters were enjoying some much-needed rest.

The Cardinals will enjoy home-field advantage in this series, due to being the division winner, as well as the team with the most wins in the National League (and tied with the Boston Red Sox for the most wins in the major league this season, 97).

This is not a team that needs a lot of advantages to begin with, but this series sets up very nicely for the Cardinals. Their experience, especially in the postseason, will be a major factor throughout their 2013 playoff run. And, if this best-of-five series does go to a fifth game, it will be in St. Louis, where the Cardinals won twice as many games as they lost (54-27).

However, perhaps the biggest reason that the Cardinals have an advantage over the Pirates is their starting pitching. When a team can start Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA), Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06) and Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97) or Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.63), they have a distinct advantage over their opponents.

Also, the hitting and fielding of Yadier Molina will make a big difference throughout the playoffs for the Cardinals. Molina led the team in batting average (.319) during the season, and he is arguably the best defensive catcher in the Major Leagues. If an opponent needs a timely stolen base, it will be tough to get with Molina behind the plate.

The Cardinals are the better team in this series, and look for them to advance to the NLCS.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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