By Jeremy Clements
The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates open a three game set tonight at Busch Stadium. The three keys for the Cards in this series start with the man who will be on the mound tonight, Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright Must Build Off His Last Start.
The Cardinals hurler has had a rocky start to his 2012 campaign as he continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery. He brings a 7.32 ERA into tonight’s game but is coming off of his best outing of the season. Wainwright allowed one run while striking out 7 and issuing just one walk over a 93-pitch, six inning start on April 24th. He must build off of that with another solid start tonight. It should be a favorable matchup for Wainwright. The Pirates bring the league’s fourth lowest (.228) team batting average into tonight’s game. If he can control all of his pitches, maintain velocity, and limit the Pirates to fewer than three runs in 6 or more innings, you can consider this another big step forward for a former Cy Young contender.
Take Advantage of Favorable Matchups Against Pittsburgh Pitchers
The probable starters for the Pirates in this series are Charlie Morton (tonight), A.J. Burnett (Wed), and Erik Bedard (Thurs). With the exception of Burnett, the starters for Pittsburgh haven’t enjoyed much success against Cardinals hitters.
Yadier Molina has a career average of .400 against Morton and has hit .333 for his career against Bedard. Matt Holliday hasn’t been as successful against Morton (.268) but has proven capable of doing damage against Bedard by hitting .455 against the Pittsburgh lefty. Finally Carlos Beltran carries a .429 career average against tonight’s starter Charlie Morton.
I won’t predict a sweep but I think it’s safe to assume the Cardinals might finally generate some run support for Adam Wainwright tonight.
Figure Out A.J. Burnett
Finally the Cards must figure out A.J. Burnett. The 35-year old righty made the St. Louis hitters look awful on April 21st, scattering 3 hits over 7 shutout innings. The biggest reason for his dominance is the fact that most Cardinals hitters have faced him fewer than eight times. In fact only Rafael Furcal (34) Carlos Beltran (24), and Lance Berkman (16) have more than ten at-bats against him.
This won’t be the last time the Cards face Burnett this season and I’m not projecting that the Pirates will be in contention for the division title, but he could be on the mound late in the year when the Cards need wins to win the division. Figuring him out now will make winning down the road easier.
If the Redbirds can do these three things, they should have no problem winning another series.
Thanks for reading.