There's no disputing the fact the St. Louis Cardinals hold an edge in almost every area over the Pirates as the teams get set to open their best-of-five NLDS series at Busch Stadium late this afternoon (5:07 p.m, TBS).
Looking for a statistical edge the Pirates might have over the Cardinals isn't easy:
* The Pirates won the season series, 10-9. But St. Louis won seven of the final 10, including a sweep of the three-game showdown at Busch Stadium in early September.
* The Pirates have outhomered the Cardinals, 161-125, but that doesn't mean much since the Cardinals outscored the Pirates by 149 runs. That edge in September was 137-103.
* Over the course of the season, the Pirates pitching staff has an edge over St.Louis in ERA, 3.26 to 3.42; but in the second half that advantage belonged to the Cardinals, 3.45 to 3.52. In September, the edge was enormous in favor of St. Louis, 2.71 to 3.80
* The Cardinals lost first baseman, cleanup hitter and RBI leader Allen Craig for the season on Sept. 4, but Matt Adams has stepped in and delivered a final-month OPS of .953, which included eight home runs.
* The Pirates finished strong going 15-11 in September and winning five of their final six. St. Louis was 19-8 in September and won all six of their final games and eight of nine.
* St. Louis closer Edward Mujica, after posting ERAs of 1.50 in July and 0.71 in August, did a meltdown and implosion in September with two blown saves, an 11.05 ERA and, if you can believe this, a .514 BAA. Needless to say, he was relieved of his duties. Hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal (12.90 K/9) replaced him and picked up three saves in three opportunities in the final week of the season.
The Pirates have to play at a high level, which is what they've be doing recently, but Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis starter tonight, will have a lot to say about that. Wainwright is postseason tested -- as a closer and starter -- with a 2.48 ERA in 13 games.
In three starts against the Pirates this season, 21 innings, Wainwright is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a .208 BAA. For his career against the Pirates -- 22 games, 18 starts -- Wainwright is 9-4 with a 4.81 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. The 2013 Pirates have a career OPS of .837 against Wainwright. Andrew McCutchen is 12-for-28 (.429) with four doubles, a triple and a home run.
A. J. Burnett, who starts for the Pirates, is 3-1 against St. Louis this season with a 3.67 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and a .213 BAA. For his career against the Cardinals, he is 8-6 with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. St. Louis has a career OPS of .723 against Burnett.
It promises to be an exciting, competitive series. The Cardinals were the better team during the regular season, but not by much, and they have home-field advantage. The edge belongs to the Cardinals. They are a tough team to beat; not an impossible team to beat.