NLDS Game 5 preview (Pirates-Cardinals)

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Gerrit Cole (left) and Adam Wainwright (right) take the mound tonight in Game 5 of the NLDS.The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals face off in a winner-take-all Game 5 tonight (8:07 ET, ESPN Radio) in St. Louis.

Let’s take a look at some of the storylines in this game.

Winner-Take-All History

The Pirates are playing a winner-take-all game in a best-of-5 or best-of-7 series for the first time since Francisco Cabrera beat them with a walk-off hit in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

The last time the Pirates won a winner-take-all postseason game on the road was Game 7 of the 1979 World Series when they beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1 to win their last championship.

The Cardinals are well tested in winner-take-all games. They’ve played five of them in the last two seasons (including a wild-card one-game matchup), winning four, with the lone loss being in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals are 7-1 in eight winner-take-alls played in their home ballpark, the lone loss coming to the Detroit Tigers in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. They’ve won their last four such home games.

Gerrit Cole stats to know

It’s not often that a pitcher as young as 23-year-old Gerrit Cole gets a chance to start a winner-take-all game.

The last pitcher that young to win such a game was Jaret Wright of the 1997 Cleveland Indians, who beat the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the ALDS.

The last pitcher that young to go on the road and win one was Fernando Valenzuela of the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat the Montreal Expos in Game 5 of the NLCS, thanks to Rick Monday’s ninth-inning home run.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cole is the third No. 1 pick to start a winner-take-all game. The others were David Price (2010 ALDS) and Andy Benes (1995 ALDS).

Gerrit Cole: Offspeed Pitch Usage
As Pct of Total Pitches This Season

Cole is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 38 innings in his last six starts. This stretch has been fueled by his offspeed success. Opposing batters are 1-for-58 (.017 BA) in this span against Cole’s offspeed pitches.

He pitched six innings of one-run ball to beat the Cardinals in Game 2. His fastball got stronger as the game went on. He averaged 96 mph with it in the first three innings and 97 mph in his next three innings, with nine pitches reaching at least 98 mph.

Adam Wainwright stats to know

Wainwright is 3-0 for his career in postseason play, though that’s slightly misleading since he got a no-decision in Game 5 of the NLDS when he got routed for six runs by the Nationals in a game the Cardinals rallied to win.

Wainwright’s four postseason starts other than that one have been really good as he’s allowed exactly one run in each.

In the NLDS opener, Wainwright struck out nine in 7 innings in the Cardinals’ 9-1 win.

Fewest AB per HR
Postseason History

Hitter to Watch: Carlos Beltran

Beltran hit his 16th career postseason home run Sunday, passing Babe Ruth for eighth-most in MLB history. Only Albert Pujols (18) has more in NL history (Manny Ramirez leads with 29 postseason home runs).

Beltran is hitting a home run every 8.6 at-bats (16 HR in 138 AB), tied with Babe Ruth for the fewest at-bats per home run in baseball history.

Justin Havens also contributed to this article