Predicting a Game 5 winner sheer folly

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My initial thought on the headline for this story was this: "Predicting Game 5 winner a fool's errand." But though that is perfectly correct it might be a bit offensive, especially to the thousand who already have predicted a winner.

Most lead with their heart, searching -- reaching -- for a reason why the Pirates will win over the St. Louis Cardinals in tonight's Game 5 at Busch Stadium.

Here's a bit of history to shed some light on why it is so difficult to predict a winner in a decisive, tie-breaking game -- which, obviously, means the teams are evenly matched -- of a postseason series.

In Game 5 of an NLDS series last year, Adam Wainwright, the same pitcher who will oppose the Pirates tonight, pitched for St. Louis against Gio Gonzalez, a 21-game winner, for Washington. A pitcher's duel, to be sure, except for this: The final score was 9-7.

Wainwright lasted 2 1/3 innings. In the regular season, he had allowed a home run on the average of every 13 innings. In this game, he allowed three in 2 1/3 innings. Gonzalez did better, three runs in five innings, but had to be removed after throwing 99 pitches.

St. Louis won by scoring four runs in the ninth innings against Washington reliever Drew Storen, who had an 0.99 WHIP during the regular season.

Nothing about this game is predictable.

Clint Hurdle said it best: "There's no telling. You got to go out and play. It can happen on the bases. It can happen on a relay throw. All aspects of the game are laid out there."

Consider these unexpected circumstances that already have taken place in this series, as detailed today by Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette.

In Game 3, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny called on Seth Maness to come into a bases-loaded situation in a tie game in the sixth inning. Matheny's thinking: Maness was one of the best ground-ball pitchers in the National League. He wanted a double play. Instead, the Pirate got a sacrifice fly from Russell Martin -- who had one all season.

Two innings later, with the Pirates now ahead, Mark Melancon, who had allowed one home run in 71 regular-season innings, gave up his second.

Someone asked me this morning to predict a winner. I begged off because I have absolutely no idea what will happen to tonight.

• Wainwright could falter as he did a year ago.

• So could Pirates starter Gerrit Cole. It's happened to better pitchers than him.

• Clint Barmes may hit the game-winning home run. Or maybe two home runs.

• Or slump-ridden Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter might be the offensive hero.

I'd suggest that everyone sit back and relax, but there likely will be no relaxing tonight.

Unless, of course, the final score is 9-1 or 7-1 -- and we know that can happen because it has. In this series.

pirates - bobsmiziksports

First Published October 9, 2013 11:02 AM


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