Tonight's NLDS Matchup: Pirates (Cole) @ Cardinals (Wainwright)

Jared Wickerham

Join us tonight for winner-take-all action!

A week ago three of the NL Central's five teams reached the postseason. After tonight, there will be only one.

Tonight the attention of all of baseball will shift to St. Louis at 7, where Adam Wainwright (2.94 ERA, 2.55 FIP) takes the mound for the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS. Wainwright is making his 15th postseason appearance and his first since starting Game 1 of the series on Thursday. He pitched seven innings in that game and allowed a single run on three hits, walking none and striking out nine.

Wainwright led all MLB pitchers with 241.2 innings of work this season, plus seven more in the playoffs. He also pitched over 230 innings in 2009 and 2010 before missing the entire 2011 season due to injury. He's also signed to a five year, $97.5 million contract extension that kicks in after this season.

As I mentioned before, Wainwright beat the Pirates in Game 1 on Thursday. He also faced them three times during the regular season and allowed a combined seven runs on 15 hits over 21 innings for a 3.00 ERA. No less than eleven current members of the Pirates have faced him ten times or more:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Andrew McCutchen 34 31 13 4 1 1 3 2 4 .419 .441 .710 1.151
Russell Martin 32 27 10 2 0 0 2 4 4 .370 .469 .444 .913
Garrett Jones 28 28 8 0 0 0 3 0 6 .286 .286 .286 .571
Clint Barmes 25 23 7 3 0 1 2 1 5 .304 .360 .565 .925
Neil Walker 25 22 6 0 0 1 6 3 2 .273 .360 .409 .769
Pedro Alvarez 24 22 5 1 0 2 7 2 8 .227 .292 .545 .837
Marlon Byrd 20 20 4 1 0 0 0 0 9 .200 .200 .250 .450
Jose Tabata 17 16 6 0 1 1 3 1 2 .375 .412 .688 1.099
John Buck 15 14 2 0 0 1 1 0 3 .143 .200 .357 .557
Starling Marte 11 9 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 .111 .273 .111 .384
Justin Morneau 10 7 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 .143 .400 .143 .543
Total 258 234 66 11 2 8 28 18 55 .282 .342 .449 .791
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/9/2013.

The Pirates hope things will be different tonight as they send Gerrit Cole (3.22 ERA, 2.91 FIP) to the mound. Cole, a former #1 overall pick, is almost exactly two years removed from making his professional debut in the 2011 Arizona Fall League. He made his MLB postseason debut in Game 2 of this series on Friday, holding the Cardinals to a single run on two hits over six innings with a walk and five strikeouts.

If we're going to mention Wainwright's workload today, then it's only fair to also mention Cole's. Counting his playoff appearance and his time in AAA he's thrown 191.1 innings as a 22-year-old this season, up from 132 in his first professional season in 2012. The Pirates are doing the opposite of what the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg a year ago, going for broke in their first playoff opportunity despite a pretty significant injury risk going forward.

Cole's start in Game 2 was the first time he had ever faced the Cardinals. No current Cardinals have, of course, faced him ten times or more. Yadier Molina homered off him in Game 2.

As of this writing I have not seen either team's lineup for tonight. If you have, please drop them in the comments.

Knock on wood, we're almost all the way through the Division Series round without weather becoming a factor. Expect a game-time temperature in the mid to upper 60's in St. Louis to drop into the low 60's as the evening moves along.

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