Game 1 of the NLDS saw St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright dominate the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup, throwing seven innings of three-hit ball while striking out nine. The Pirates managed to get just one run across in the form of a Pedro Alvarez home run to center field.
Game 2 saw rookie Gerrit Cole pitch a similar outing, lasting six innings while surrendering only two hits and one run by way of a Yadier Molina solo shot. The Cardinals struck out five times in Cole's six innings, none more emphatically than Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the sixth on a blistering two-seamer that drifted back over the inside part of the plate.
These two pitchers will face off against each other in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS Wednesday night at 8:07 p.m EDT from Busch Stadium.
The two teams played against one another 19 times during the season so it's not like they aren't already familiar. But having seen each pitcher as recently as last week makes for an added advantage.
"I think it's going to help big-time," Matt Adams said, via R.B. Fallstrom of The Associated Press (h/t TheLedger.com). "We're going to know how the ball's coming out of his hand and know what his tendencies are."
Adjusting pitch sequences and approaches to each hitter will likely be one way Cole and Wainwright go about constructing their game plans.
"It's just going to come down to executing a handful of pitches, being able to hit the spot or execute the pitch when I need to," Cole said.
The Cardinals hadn't faced Cole before Friday. Matching up with Cole the second time around will require patience.
Of the three teams that did have the opportunity to face the hard-throwing right-hander on more than one occasion this season, only one was able to knock him out of the game in fewer innings in his second start than in his first.
On July 28, Cole threw seven innings, allowing three earned runs and four hits in a loss to the Miami Marlins. Just over a week later, Cole received a no-decision, lasting five innings while yielding four earned runs and six hits.
Spotting pitches was key in the Pirates' Game 2 victory. Cole will try to maintain that aspect of his repertoire going into Wednesday's showdown.
"Gerrit Cole was absolutely outstanding," Neil Walker said, via Tom Singer of MLB.com. "Unbelievable, spotting down in the zone with his fastball and getting ahead with sliders -- using it early, middle, late [in the count]. That's how he's been successful the last several outings."
Patience will be a key for the Pirates, too.
The Bucs were challenged by Wainwright's breaking ball in Game 1, as Andrew McCutchen was the only player in the starting lineup to avoid striking out.
Getting the Pirates to chase pitches down and out of the zone will be one of Wainwright's weapons. The Pirates ranked fourth in MLB in swinging-strike percentage this season (10.2 percent), as per FanGraphs.
The winner of the elimination game will go on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS on Friday, Oct. 11.