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National League Division Series Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, October 3rd (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (1-0) at St. Louis Cardinals (0-0), 5:07 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (10-11, 3.30) St. Louis - Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)

(SportsNetwork.com) - It's been 21 long years since the Pittsburgh Pirates have been in this position. Who can blame them for wanting to stick around a little longer?

Pittsburgh will continue its first postseason run since 1992 on Thursday when they start the best-of-five National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

"We know the Cardinals and they know us; there won't be any secrets," Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said.

Of course, these teams are no stranger to one another, having played 19 times in the regular season. In fact from June 21 on, it was essentially a two-horse race for bragging rights in the NL Central before St. Louis eventually pulled away from Pittsburgh and captured its first division title since 2009 by virtue of a league-best 97-65 mark.

So, the Pirates had to settle for a wild card spot, despite finishing above .500 (94-68) for the first time since that 1992 season. Nobody in the Steel City was complaining, though, as they hadn't experienced postseason baseball since Barry Bonds was roaming the outfield at Three Rivers Stadium.

And Pittsburgh rewarded its fans on Tuesday, as Francisco Liriano fired seven innings of one-run ball and Russell Martin cracked a pair of solo home runs in the Pirates' 6-2 win over Cincinnati in the NL wild card game.

"We didn't talk about one and done, we talked about one and run," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Win one and run to St. Louis."

Pittsburgh had five All-Stars at this year's Midsummer Classic, but none shined brighter than Andrew McCutchen, who continued to state his case as one of the best young players in the game.

McCutchen hit .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBI, 27 stolen bases, a .404 on-base percentage and .508 slugging percentage in 157 games. He became just the fourth major league center fielder since 1947 to have consecutive seasons of hitting .300 with a .400 slugging percentage and .500 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, joining Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.

Veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett will get the call for the Bucs in Game 1. Burnett was only 10-11 this season, but pitched to a 3.03 ERA and is no stranger to postseason baseball.

"It means a lot," Burnett said about getting the ball for Game 1. "I wouldn't want it any other way. They've come a long way, these men in here. Step 2 was tonight. We have a lot of work still to be done, a lot of games to be played. It was a great win, a great step. Now we have to get ready for another series."

Burnett has pitched to a 5.08 ERA in seven postseason games, but is 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA in his two Division Series outings.

While Pittsburgh may be getting its first taste of postseason action since 1992, St. Louis is holding court in October for the third straight year and for the 10th time in the last 14 seasons.

The Cardinals have won four playoff series in the past two seasons and have claimed two World Series titles in the past seven years.

Amazingly, Mike Matheny's team keeps chugging along no matter what obstacles seem to be thrown their way. The Cardinals also enter the postseason hot, having won their last six games and 10 of the last 12 in the regular season.

McCutchen may be the NL frontrunner for an MVP, but the Cards have a pair of candidates as well in catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Matt Carpenter.

In addition to being the best defensive catcher in the game, Molina has also become a more than capable bat in the lineup. This year, he hit .319 and drove in 80 runs. Carpenter was a real surprise, though, as the rookie earned an All-Star berth, hitting .318, while scoring a major league-best 126 runs.

"I don't know where we'd be without him -- having that leadoff hitter and having the kind of season that he's having and what he's done defensively," Matheny said of Carpenter. "It's just off the charts, as far as how good he has been and how much he's proven just what a solid baseball player he is -- no matter where we put him."

The key for St. Louis will be jumping out in front on a hot Pirates team that seems to be gaining momentum by the day. And who better to do just that in Game 1 than NL wins leader Adam Wainwright, who won 19 games this season and pitched to a 3.00 ERA in three starts versus the Pirates.

Wainwright was 4-0 in his final five starts, working seven or more innings in all of them except for a tuneup his last time out.

"All in all, a Cy Young-caliber season," Matheny said. "We're not afraid to put him on the mound against anybody."

Pittsburgh narrowly won the season series, 10-9, but lost six of nine in St. Louis.

10/03 10:23:18 ET

  • Sun Bowl: Duke vs. Arizona State

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NHL: Hurricanes at NY Rangers

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • CBB: Louisiana Tech at NC State

    Tuesday at 7:00 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 17
CLE 13
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
2nd
TOR 56
NYK 51
 
4:30pm Today
CLE
MEM
6:00pm Tonight
MIA
BOS
6:00pm Tonight
BRK
DET
6:00pm Tonight
SAC
LAL
6:00pm Tonight
ORL
PHI
6:00pm Tonight
WAS
PHO
7:00pm Tonight
MIN
IND
7:00pm Tonight
OKC
NOP
Final
UVA 76
HARV 27
Final
BGU 68
FERST 82
 
Final
ARMY 72
MAINE 69
 
Final
QUIN 60
ORST 52
Final
CLST 69
USF 65
 
Final
CARK 55
CCAR 72
 
Final
UWGB 66
ARKLR 46
 
Final
RAD 74
CORN 61
 
Final
UNT 62
CREI 58
 
Final
CAN 67
HC 48
 
Final
USB 67
GHND 52
 
Final
OKST 64
MD 73
Final
WINT 100
REIN 72
 
Final
UGST 68
SMISS 55
Final
NEOM 77
TXPA 72
 
Final
STLU 58
VERM 55
 
Final
UNCA 62
WCU 66
 
Final
EVAN 81
ALAST 63
 
Final
HART 82
FIU 69
 
Final
VALPO 82
GOSHEN 55
 
2nd
LIP 51
PEAY 46
 
2nd
DEN 35
BRY 33
 
2nd
MONT 52
SD 48
 
2nd
MTST 44
TENST 32
 
2nd
SAMF 39
LAMON 34
 
2nd
SCAR 35
COKR 23
 
1st
HAMP 25
NARZ 18
 
1st
SDU 37
SDCHR 17
 
1st
BC 29
USC 26
 
1st
NICST 0
TROY 7
 
4:30pm Today
BRAD
UCI
 
6:00pm Tonight
UGA
SHU
6:30pm Tonight
ALA
APP
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NDST
 
7:00pm Tonight
WASU
SJST
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ALCOR
 
10:00pm Tonight
SEAT
SACST
 
6:00pm Tonight
DET
COL
6:00pm Tonight
EDM
DAL
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
BUF
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
TOR
9:00pm Tonight
WIN
PHI
Final
NOS 14
ATL 30
 
Final
HOU 25
BAL 13
 
Final
CAR 17
CLE 13
 
Final
CHI 14
DET 20
Final
TAM 3
GBP 20
 
Final
PIT 20
KAN 12
 
Final
MIA 37
MIN 35
 
Final
NYJ 16
NEP 17
 
1st
STL 3
NYG 10
 
1st
OAK 0
BUF 7
 
1st
DAL 6
IND 0
 
8:30pm Tonight
ARI
SEA