A.J. Burnett will try and pitch the Pirates to their first road playoff win since 1992.Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals begins today from Busch Stadium (5:07 ET/ESPN Radio). This will be the first time these teams are meeting in the postseason.
Pittsburgh won the regular season series 10-9, but the Cardinals have won each of the last four meetings. Here are a few storylines to watch.
1. St. Louis finished the regular season by winning 17 of 22, including each of their last six games. The 53 home wins set a Busch Stadium III record, besting the 52 games they won in 2010.
For the Pirates, they won eight of their last nine road games but have lost four straight and five of their last six at St. Louis. The Pirates have not won a postseason road game since October 13, 1992 (the last time they were in the playoffs).
2. A.J. Burnett has relied on his curveball as an out-pitch more than any other pitcher this season, but that doesn’t mean that batters have been able to figure it out.
A.J. Burnett vs Cardinals
Since Joining Pirates in 2012
He has more strikeouts (134), chased pitches (270) and swings-and-misses (232) with his hook than any other major-leaguer and only five pitchers have allowed a lower slugging percentage on their curveball than Burnett (min. 300 pitches).
He has thrown 176 curves to the Cardinals this season, and only 26 were put in play. Those pitches netted him 46 outs – 24 of them via strike three – and just nine baserunners allowed.
3. Similarly, Adam Wainwright is very reliant on his curveball. His 115 strikeouts with his curve this season were topped only by Burnett.
Wainwright has made four postseason starts in his career and allowed only one run in three of the four (though he only pitched 5⅔ innings in one of those). He has 42 strikeouts in 32⅔ postseason innings.
4. The Pirates and Cardinals have played 2,328 regular season games, tied for the third most games played between two teams that have never met in the postseason (Cubs and Phillies have also played 2,328 games).
The Cubs and Pirates have played the most regular season games (2,420) without meeting in the postseason while the Dodgers and Giants have the second most (2,392).
Of course it was not possible for these teams to meet in the playoffs prior to the Wild Card era (since 1995) since they were in the same division.
5. Key matchups to watch in this game:
Russell Martin vs. Adam Wainwright: Martin is 10-for-25 with a .500 on-base percentage in 30 plate appearances against Wainwright. He’s only 1-for-6 against Wainwright this season, but has also drawn a pair of walks.
Carlos Beltran vs. A.J. Burnett: Beltran is a .318 career hitter against Burnett and has done a lot of damage against him the last two years, with 10 RBI in 23 at-bats. Beltran has ended 18 at-bats against Burnett with contact since the start of last season. Six of those ended with a line drive.