ST. LOUIS -- Manager Clint Hurdle has some experience here. In addition to leading a division rival of the St. Louis Cardinals in the past three seasons, he played for the Cardinals in 1986.
"It's going to be a sea of red," Hurdle said.
It also has the potential to be a sea of offense, and, for the Pirates to compete, they need to stay afloat.
In Game 1 of the National League Division Series at 5 p.m. today at Busch Stadium, the Pirates take on the Cardinals, who, in the regular season were the best offensive team in the league. They led the NL in runs per game (4.83) and on-base percentage (.332), and ranked second in batting average (.269).
The Cardinals also led the majors with a .330 average with runners in scoring position.
"We've had games against each other, and they know I'm going to come after them and I'm going to try to put them away," said A.J. Burnett, who will start for the Pirates. "So to be able to put guys away with guys in scoring position or guys on base, it's huge."
The Cardinals offense positions them well for the postseason, if history is any indication. Since 2001, seven of the 12 teams that won the World Series ranked in the top four in the league in runs scored per game. Three of them led their league.
This year, the Pirates ranked ninth in the NL with 3.91 runs per game. Opponents held them to zero or one in 31 games. They won 94 games in large part because of their pitchers, featuring solid starters Burnett and Francisco Liriano, a great second half from rookie Gerrit Cole and one of the best bullpens in the game. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, though, put the history in perspective.
"All things that none of the guys inside that clubhouse think about," he said. "All those numbers that people like to point to -- and I get it -- we throw that right out the window."
So does shortstop Clint Barmes, who, like the rest of the Pirates, operates in a sphere absent exterior numbers. They play the game on a day-to-day basis.
"We show up every day expecting to win, no matter who's on the mound, no matter how many runs we're down, we haven't quit in any game," Barmes said. "The perfect example is not too long ago here. Being down eight runs and whatever it was and getting their closer in the game to finish the game, that says a lot."
Barmes was referring to the Cardinals' 12-8 win against the Pirates Sept. 6 at Busch Stadium, when the Cardinals led, 12-1, after seven innings but allowed seven unanswered runs from the Pirates and had to summon closer Edward Mujica.
"All I know is I like our odds against each team," Barmes said. "I don't care who we match up with, we match up pretty well with everybody. We've had timely hitting all season. Our pitching keeps us in games. We've found ways to score runs."
Two World Series champions ranked in the lower portion of their league in runs scored per game, the 2010 San Francisco Giants and the 2005 Chicago White Sox. The common denominator: their pitching staffs, which ranked first or tied for first in the league in ERA.
The Giants that year had excellent seasons from Tim Lincecum, coming off two consecutive NL Cy Young awards, along with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Four of their starters made 33 starts. The White Sox also had a consistent rotation featuring Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras at the height of their effectiveness.
"We're going to match up to some good offenses, but, with our pitching staff, I like our chances against a good offense," Barmes said.
Allen Craig's foot injury has left the Cardinals without one of their biggest contributors for this series. Craig hit .454 with runners in scoring position this season to go with a .315 average and a .373 on-base percentage.
Matt Adams will man first base in Craig's absence. In 319 plate appearances this year, left-handed Adams hit 17 home runs and slugged .503.
"Craig's had a great year and definitely has done well against us," Burnett said. "But, at the same time, you have a big first baseman that can leave the yard at any time. So it's not a bad problem for those guys to have over there to have a backup like that replace that guy."
Barmes said facing the Cardinals offense won't necessarily force guys to press to score runs. They approach every game that way.
"I think everyone in here looks to try to hit and score runs every night, no matter who we're facing," Barmes said. "You got to score to win. This staff is going to be tough to score runs. Ours is going to be tough to score on as well. It's going to make it interesting. We've got a lot of talent in this clubhouse."
Sometimes, the numbers mean nothing. The 1996 New York Yankees won the World Series with a pitching staff that ranked sixth in AL ERA in the regular season and an offense that ranked ninth in runs per game. The 2003 Florida Marlins won a title ranking eighth in the league in both categories.
"That's the biggest thing about this game, too, is you never know," Barmes said. "You really never know. That's what makes it so fun and so exciting."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM