Pirates-Cardinals Preview


After a one-sided victory in Game 1 of their NL division series, Carlos Beltran and the St. Louis Cardinals are hungry for more.

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, meanwhile, is hoping to see his club even things up.

The Cardinals try to continue their recent domination against the visiting Pirates, who turn to rookie Gerrit Cole in Game 2 of this best-of-five set Friday.

Beltran hit a three-run homer to spark a seven-run third inning as St. Louis cruised to a 9-1 win Thursday. David Freese added two hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals, who have outscored Pittsburgh 42-13 in winning the last five meetings.

"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," manager Mike Matheny said. "Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series."

While the Pirates snapped a 21-year postseason drought and beat Cincinnati 6-2 two nights earlier in the wild-card game, they failed to get much going Thursday. Andrew McCutchen had two of the team's four hits and Pedro Alvarez homered.

"Game 164 was rough. That's one of the things we've been real good at is we don't overcook things," said Hurdle, whose team committed three errors. "We knew coming in we had to find a way to win a game here. ... We're down one game in the series, and we'll move on."

The Pirates will try to bounce back behind Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA), who posted a 1.38 ERA in winning his final four regular-season starts

"It's going to be unbelievable. You're in enemy territory. The place is going to be loud. It's going to be rocking," said Cole, who struck out 34 over 26 innings during his winning streak. "I have no real experience to pull from, so just going to try to keep it as simple as I can and just control what I can control."

The 23-year-old right-hander went 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA in seven road outings. Cole, though, faces a tough task in his first appearance against St. Louis, which has won seven straight.

"I know that - facing (Matt) Carpenter, Beltran, (Yadier) Molina, (Matt) Holliday, Freese, (Jon) Jay - they're just great hitters," he said. "Whether you've seen them a bunch of times or not, you know what they're capable of doing. You know in a playoff atmosphere anything can happen."

Cole will need to be especially careful against Beltran, who is batting .357 with 15 homers - tied with Babe Ruth for eighth all-time - and 28 RBIs in 35 postseason games.

"He's like our secret weapon when it comes to the postseason. He steps up every time," Carpenter said. "Some guys just have a knack for a big game and he's one of them."

The Cardinals counter with Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97), who also thrived down the stretch. The right-hander followed a career-worst four-start losing streak by going 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his final four outings, striking out 30 over 24 2-3 innings.

"To be here at this time, you know what it's all about," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's regular season, postseason, whatever it may be. You're just thinking about one thing, and that is getting the job done for your team and giving them a chance to win."

While Lynn went 6-7 with a 5.15 ERA on the road, he was 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA at home.

"Some pitchers feel more comfortable at certain places," he said. "But I have the luxury of throwing in front of the home crowd here, and I'm excited about it."

Lynn went 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts against San Francisco in last season's NLCS.

Lynn was 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in five starts versus the Pirates this season. He surrendered a career high-tying seven runs over four innings in a 7-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Aug. 31.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is 6 for 13 with two doubles and a triple in their matchups, while McCutchen is 4 for 26 with 10 strikeouts.