Wednesday is the start of the NLDS. In any playoff series, people will always say, “Pitching wins championships.” That may be true; however, it does not hurt to have your hitters knock the other team’s pitchers around.
The Pittsburgh Pirates come into their series with division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, off of a stellar offensive performance in the NL Wild Card game. The Cardinals have had a chance to rest their players in preparation for this Division round. This year’s Pirates team may have the better pitching staff, especially since many of the Cardinals’ pitchers are rookies, or close to it. That is good, but which of these teams has the better lineup going into this critical series? The answer is the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now, I am fully aware that any Cardinals fan would debate this fact. However, I want you to look at some of the important factors going into this series.
First and most importantly, the Pirates have the man who should clearly be the MVP of the National League, and that is Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen, or “Cutch,” is one of the best all-around hitters in the game today. Since the trade deadline, the Pirates have surrounded Cutch with better hitters to protect him. This takes a great deal of pressure off of McCutchen and allows him to do what he does best, and that is hit big hits at big times.
That leads into my second point, and that is the fact that the Pirates’ lineup has improved a great deal since the trade deadline. With the Pirates putting out (against a right handed starter like Adam Wainwright) a right handed bat, a left handed bat, and so on, it makes it very difficult to pitch against this lineup. The additions of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau have added additional pop, clutch hitting, and leadership to this team. By doing this, the players that did start in the regular season against the Cardinals are now the guys coming off the bench.
Finally, the Pirates did win the season series against the Cardinals 10-9. As previously stated, the Pirates were beating the Cardinals with hitters like Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez and Jordy Mercer. All of these hitters will be coming off the bench in key pinch hitting situations.
If you are a Pirates fan, then you know the Pirates have had a roller coaster ride with their lineup this season. However, if you also know the Cardinals, then you also know that their lineup has looked older and slower many times during the season. This series has the makeup to be one of the best playoff series in recent history, especially in Pittsburgh! If the Pirates’ new lineup can stay healthy and continue to hit the ball as they did against the Cincinnati Reds, then all of those rookie pitchers for the Cardinals are going to get a ton of work out of the bullpen.