After dispatching the Cincinnati Reds in a highly emotional game Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, 6-2, the Pirates head to St. Louis to take on the NL Central-winning Cardinals. While the Pirates managed to maintain winning records against every team in the division, the Cardinals proved to be the toughest test.
A.J. Burnett will take the mound for the Pirates in the hopes that he can avenge his last outing at Busch Stadium which saw him exit after three innings. The 36-year-old yielded five earned runs on six hits in a 12-8 loss.
This season, Burnett managed to go 3-1 against St. Louis with a 3.67 ERA in 34.1 innings.
Perhaps the greatest advantage that he holds is with his history against players like Matt Adams, David Freese and Yadier Molina, via ESPN.
Adams, who has stepped up admirably in lieu of the injured Allen Craig, is 1-for-9 with four strikeouts in his short career against the Pirates right-hander.
Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP, has managed only one hit in 11 at-bats, striking out five times.
Molina, arguably the most important player in the Cardinals lineup, has struggled against Burnett as well. The All-Star catcher is 4-for-25 (.160) in his career against the veteran righty.
While there are possible weak spots to exploit for Burnett, there are also certain Cardinals who absolutely rake against him.
Matt Carpenter, who has staked his claim as one of the top candidates in the NL MVP race, is hitting Burnett at a .429 clip.
Likewise, Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay are hitting over .300 against the Pirates' catalyst.
For the Cardinals, Wainwright will be looking to build on his last performance against the Pirates which saw him pitch seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory.
In three starts against the Pirates this season, Wainwright has amassed a 1-0 record with 20 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Historically speaking, the Pirates' starting lineup has hit well against Wainwright. Taking the starting eight from Tuesday night's game and looking at the batter vs. pitcher matchups, you can see there is a distinct storyline. As a team, the projected Pirates lineup is hitting .316 against Wainwright, as per ESPN.
Of note, Andrew McCutchen (.429) and Russell Martin (.409) have fared well against the 6-foot-7-inch right-hander.
Clint Barmes (.333) and Neil Walker (.316) have also done well in the past to produce, but the options off of the bench are also interesting.
Jose Tabata (.375) and even Garrett Jones (.286) give manager Clint Hurdle several alternatives should the situation arise where they are needed to be called upon.
The Cardinals outscored the Pirates in the season series 87-85, but the Pirates hit 19 home runs compared to the Cards' five.
For the Pirates, getting a solid start out of Burnett will be the key to maintaining a chance to win. With solid matchups involving some of the best players in the starting lineup, though, Game 1 should be attainable.
First pitch is 5:07 p.m. EDT from Busch Stadium. The game can be seen on TBS.