Is there a pitcher you'd rather have on the mound for the Pirates in a near must-win situation than Gerrit Cole? Cole has been consistent since the day he was called up in June, and he was dominant in September. The stats have been run through a million times in the last week, but in September Cole made five starts and the Pirates won all five. He threw 34 innings and held opponents to six runs (1.69 ERA) on 24 hits and 10 walks (1.06 WHIP) to go with 39 strikeouts. He came up with a big start in the game that turned out to be win 81 and he had his best start of the year the next time out, when the Pirates had lost four straight and were teetering on the precipice of third place in the division. That was when he went into Texas and out-dueled Yu Darvish, striking out nine and walking two while scattering three hits. In his next start against the Cubs, the Pirates were coming off of a loss and Cole held the Cubs to one run in seven innings, striking out seven, walking three, and allowing just five hits. In the start after that, the Pirates were coming off of a loss to the Padres and Cole blasted the doors off; he struck out 12 in six innings, holding the Padres to one run for an easy Pirate win.
My one concern about Cole today is this: he hasn't started since September 24th, so he's going on nine days of rest. Last time he had more than normal rest was August 29th against Milwaukee, when it took him a few innings to locate his off-speed stuff. He didn't really settle in until the fifth inning, and by that point it was 3-0 Brewers. I think that the Pirates could probably withstand that sort of start today since they've generally hit the ball well off of Lance Lynn this year, but I'd much rather they not have to. The best remedy for what happened last night would be to score a run or two early against Lynn while Cole cruises through the lineup at least once.
The Pirates did see Lynn five times this year, and they won three of the games that he started. They've scored 17 times against him in 27 1/3 innings, though a couple of his starts against the Pirates were quite good. He's no Adam Wainwright, though, and he's probably the worst of the starters that the Cardinals are likely to use this post-season. I will say that if the Pirates do get to him early, they need to cash in. The Cards won't use either Shelby Miller or Michael Wacha in this series. If Lynn struggles early today, I seriously doubt that Mike Matheny will hesistate to pull him for one of his two rookies. The Pirates may only have a few shots at Lynn if he doesn't have his best stuff.
I don't think there's much else to say here. Game 1 of this series was more or less what you could've anticipated (Burnett in trouble in Busch, Hurdle leaving Burnett out for too long, Wainwright dominating the Pirates), ratcheted up to extremes. That only matters if the Pirates can't bounce back with a win today. I think this game sets up much better for them, but they still need to go out, execute, and win a ballgame. If that happens, we'll have a competitive series on our hands.
First pitch today is at 1:07. The game will be on the MLB Network and only the MLB Network.