The Pittsburgh Pirates won their first playoff game in 21 years on Oct. 1. However, the Pirates are now starting their first full-length playoff series in 21 years on Oct. 3. What’s more, they won’t start off in the friendly, postseason-starved confines of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, as they have to visit the more playoff seasoned St. Louis Cardinals for Game 1 of the NLDS.
While the Pirates haven’t played in October since 1992, this is the Cardinals’ third straight appearance after winning it all in 2011 and nearly winning another pennant in 2012. Yet for this specific season, Pittsburgh has beaten St. Louis 10 times out of 19, although the Cardinals blew them out for four games the last time they came to Busch Stadium.
That is a big reason why the Pirates had to play a wild-card game to begin with, and why the Cardinals survived a grueling three-way chase for the NL Central title. Now that Pittsburgh has knocked off the Cincinnati Reds, this series will determine the king of this division once and for all, among other things.
However, the Cardinals are in an uncharacteristic position in October. They stormed from nowhere to even make the playoffs in 2011 before their upset World Series run, then they won the NL’s first wild card game in 2012 before stunning the Washington Nationals and nearly beating the San Francisco Giants. This time around, St. Louis is the favorite with the bulls-eye on its back, while Pittsburgh is the upstart Cinderella.
Losing to an upset-minded wild card would be an ironic way for these Cardinals to go out. In addition, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle is no stranger to this stage -- unlike most of his players -- as he took the Colorado Rockies from the wild card spot to an NL pennant in 2007. The Pirates also have October veteran A.J. Burnett ready to pitch Game 1 against Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright.
Pittsburgh already broke one drought in getting here, but now it has to break a bigger one, by being the first Pirates team since the 1979 world champions to win a playoff series. St. Louis has won 18 of them since then, and would like to get up to 21 before the month is out.
The Cardinals’ efforts to get to 19 first will begin at 5:07 p.m. est on TBS.