There Was No Doubt About It

A Pittsburgh Pirates Blog

Pirates vs. Cardinals: Two Teams, or Three?

06.10.16 Posted by

Cole vs. Wacha, 7:05 PM

The assumption going into this season was that the Cardinals, due to aging and some lost players, would start trending downwards, and that the Bucs were still (generally) trending upwards, and that this would the Central a two-team race. This sentiment was reinforced by the Pirates’ season-opening sweep of said Cardinals.

Since then, St. Louis has made up that ground, and today has the exact same record as the Pirates and a higher run differential. They are, somehow, the highest-scoring team in the National League. If you think this is weird and unsustainable, you’re probably right: their rookie shortshop has an .880 OPS and almost as many home runs this year as he had in twice as many games in AA. Carpenter, Adams, and Piscotty all seem to be doing the kinds of things within their normal range of expectations, but they all seem to be at the high end of it, too. It’s pretty safe to say this offense is better than expected, but I’m not entirely buying them as an offensive juggernaut.

Whatever you think of their underlying ability, they’ve kept themselves in the conversation. I’ve alluded to some of this earlier in the year, but the Cardinals, whatever their long-term trendline, are still a threat in the here and now. You have to like the Pirates more in some kind of improbable shock-the-Cubs comeback, but in terms of battling for yet another Wild Card, St. Louis is still a major hurdle.

However good their offense is, they draw Gerrit Cole in game one, who threw six innings and gave up two runs when he faced them earlier in St. Louis. I’d really like to see a big start out of him here: since the Cubs game, he’s gotten good results, but looked awfully shaky in the process. The Cubs may have supplanted the Cardinals in the Pirates’ mind as the Central target, but here’s hoping Cole still sees them for the threat they are, and is correspondingly amped. Remember, the Wild Card game isn’t a birthright we can fall back on once the division looks out of reach: one of these years we’re going to have to really fight for it, and if we do, the Cardinals may very well be the team we have to fight for it.

The Cardinals counter with Michael Wacha. Wacha’s faced the Bucs twice this year, and they’ve handled him well: eight earned runs in 10.1 innings. I think something like that should be plenty.

First pitch is at 7:05 PM.

Filed under: game preview, Gerrit Cole