St. Louis Cardinals starter Joe Kelly is only 25 and in just his second major league season. He didn't settle in as a starter until July, so the natural assumption is the atmosphere today at PNC Park could overwhelm him when the Pirates and Cardinals meet in Game 3 of this National League Division Series.
That's especially true if the atmosphere is anything like it was in the Pirates' 6-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild-card game Tuesday at PNC Park, when the crowd was so loud and disruptive that it seemed to rattle Reds starter Johnny Cueto.
But Kelly's greatest attribute, besides his arm, is that he is even-keeled emotionally and pretty laid back. So he doesn't think the crowd will be much of a factor in his start today.
"It is going to be fun," Kelly said before the Cardinals' off-day workout Saturday. "That's what playoff baseball is about, you dream about it as a little kid. It is going to be a great time. The atmosphere is going to be electric, obviously, and I think our side is looking forward to it.
"And their side is obviously looking forward to it and we're going to go out there and have a good ballgame."
Kelly is 2-0 and has given up just one earned run in 12 innings at PNC Park. Overall against the Pirates, he is 3-0 and has only allowed two earned runs in 18 innings.
He said he isn't sure why he has been so successful at PNC Park.
"I like pitching here," Kelly said. "I take the ball and I go with it. I just try to attack the hitters here, these guys are ultra-aggressive. I try to get quick outs."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the two biggest factors in Kelly's success against the Pirates are "unfamiliarity," since they've only seen him a few times, and his execution.
"He's a good, young pitcher with excellent stuff," Hurdle said. "And when he is throwing strikes, that is tough competition."
Kelly is the exception
Aside from Kelly, the Cardinals have had it tough this year at PNC Park. They are 3-7 in games played here and considering two of those wins came in Kelly's starts, it means they are 1-7 at PNC Park in games not pitched by Kelly.
Manager Mike Matheny said the park isn't the issue, and the Cardinals have shown they can win on the road all season.
"We really don't put a lot of stock in [our record in] opposing parks," Matheny said. "We have played in a lot of different parks this year and we've played well on the road. There's been times when this team has played well here in the past. So when you get to this time of year, you throw that stuff out the window.
"We're just making sure everybody is focused on doing what we can do and what we can control."
Not over until they're over
The first two games of this series were blowouts, but Matheny said neither team was able to rest until the games were over because both are more than capable of coming from behind to win.
"We have had extra-inning games, we have had some tough long ones and we know [the Pirates] comes out to play for nine innings," Matheny said. "And that's the kind of club we are. Those teams have knockdown, drag-outs.
"Even the other day when we had the lead, we wanted to keep the throttle down and knew that team would keep coming. I sense in their dugout they believe the same thing. Our offenses both have the ability to explode, which makes any game a closer game."
Paul Zeise: email@example.com and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published October 6, 2013 4:00 AM