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WHEELER: Cards Face Win or Go Home Game 4

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So it comes down to this…

Beat the Pirates at PNC Park, something the Cardinals have done just 3-times in 2013, or it’s time to start planning for 2014.

Personally, I refuse to overanalyze what happened in Game 3. There were mistakes, sure, and the strike zone of home plate up Jerry Layne was awful (both ways, I might add) but ultimately the Pirates came through in situations where the Cardinals did not.

It was that simple.

When I evaluated this series before Game 1 we seemed headed for this point. Adam Wainwright was always the better bet over A.J. Burnett. Gerrit Cole, rookie or not, was always the better bet over Lance Lynn. Francisco Liriano was always the better bet than Joe Kelly.

See where I’m going here?

This is essentially the way the series should have gone if you look at it in terms of specific matchups. What two teams do over 162 games means one thing, what they do on a specific day based on matchups is another.

Based on that logic, the Cardinals should win Game 4 and force a Game 5 on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. Michael Wacha and Charlie Morton will be the starters in Game 4 and that favors the Cardinals.

Wacha is the St. Louis version of Cole. He’s a fast-rising, former 1st round pick with an elite arsenal and supreme confidence. Cole throws harder and has more pitches but Wacha has that crazy downward angle and one of the best change ups in baseball. He was 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in September, including 7 innings of 2-hit shutout ball against the Pirates, and he’s in the playoff rotation for precisely this reason.

These Pirates are just 3-for-30 against Wacha – I don’t think I need to tell you that’s a .100 average, but I just did – and Jordy Mercer has the only extra base hit in that group. It was a double.

On the other side of the spectrum you have Morton.

On September 8th the Cardinals pounded Morton for 5 ER in 1 2/3 IP. On the season he is 0-2 with a 7.60 ERA against the Cardinals in 3 starts. Lifetime against the Cardinals Morton is 2-9 with a 6.52 ERA.

And quite a few of the Cardinals who will be in the lineup in Game 4 have handled Morton well:

Carlos Beltran (6-for-15, .400 w/ 4 RBI and 5 BB)

Matt Carpenter (3-for-8, .375 w/ 3 BB)

David Freese (5-for-17, .294 w/ 1 HR and 5 RBI)

Matt Holliday (8-for-25, .320 w/ 1 HR and 5 RBI)

Jon Jay (8-for-16, .500 w/ 3 RBI and 2 BB)

Yadier Molina (8-for-19, ..421 w/ 4 doubles and 6 RBI)

Every single trend, every single matchup favors the Cardinals heading into Game 4. Obviously that doesn’t mean that victory is guaranteed, it just means that the Cardinals are in position to send this back to their home stadium.

The Pirates managed to pull off a win at Busch so why wouldn’t the Cardinals have a chance to do the same thing? The Cards had a better home record than the Pirates this year and while the atmosphere at PNC Park is amazing – and loud – I still expect to be covering Game 5 at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.

As for who would win that one – Adam Wainwright probably facing Gerrit Cole – well, ask me on Tuesday…

This is what October is all about, everything on the line in big games.

Play ball!

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