The Pirates are 12-5 against the NL East.
The Pirates are 9-4 against the NL West.
The Pirates are 6-7 against the American League.
The Pirates are 20-25 against the NL Central.
The Pirates have only lost two series since the beginning of June; those two series were against NL Central teams.
In short: the Pirates have spent the better part of three weeks proving that they’re better than the dregs of the National League and American League. If that’s going to mean anything at all, they have to start playing better against the teams in their own division. Tonight, they start a seven-game road trip to St. Louis and Cincinnati. A good week will solidify their current position in the standings as the top challenger to the Brewers. A bad week will wipe out much of the progress that they made in the 16 games preceding these seven.
The Pirates will not start this stretch with an easy draw. Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals and Wainwright has been good enough that it’s at least not completely insane to ask if he’s been as good as beamed-down-from-another-planet Clayton Kershaw in the first half of the season (I mean, he hasn’t been — I’m just saying it’s not insane to talk about it). He’s already faced the Pirates this year, though those two starts came in April. He threw 15 innings against the Pirates, striking out 14 and allowing two runs on eight total hits. It’s not really a secret that he’s had the Pirates’ number for a while, though. Josh Harrison will start for Gregory Polanco in right field, and adding an extra right-handed bat to the lineup against Wainwright seems like an odd thing to do to me. I know the Pirates want to get Harrison as much playing time as they can, but I’m also interested to see how Polanco would fare against pitchers like Wainwright.
Charlie Morton goes for the Pirates. The Cardinals have generally torn Morton apart, though he was OK in his only start against them this year (it was the Sunday Night Baseball game at PNC Park where he had a rough first inning, got no help from his defense, and settled down after that). Morton has been much-improved against lefties this year, so maybe that will help him against the Cardinals tonight.
First pitch tonight is at 8:15.