Since A.J. Burnett’s thud in Game 1, I’ve been telling any Pirates fan, “Burnett can’t start Game 5.”
Thankfully, he won’t.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will turn to rookie Gerrit Cole in St. Louis Wednesday in an effort to continue their magical season.
“I believe that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told Pirates.com.
But that’s only half the battle. It doesn’t matter who starts for the Pirates if they have to wait until their final outs to avoid being no-hit in the postseason.
Simply put, the Pirates will need to solve Adam Wainwright, St. Louis’ Game 5 starter. Wainwright shut down the Pirates in Game 1 and is coming off a September in which he went 5-1 with a 2.85 ERA.
There is some hope. Wainwright has a career 4.81 ERA in 22 career starts against the Pirates. He does, however, have a 9-4 record in his career against the Bucs. And he did have three starts against the Pirates this season and finished with a 3.00 ERA.
But this is the postseason. Every pitch counts. And the Pirates are struggling at the top of the order — big time.
Starling Marte is hitting .067 and Neil Walker isn’t hitting, that is, he has a .000 average. Zilch.
If those guys don’t get on, then Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have a chance to drive in anyone.
But maybe, the Pirates can scratch out two runs.
Then it’s Cole time.
Aside from Francisco Liriano, Cole has been the Pirates’ best pitcher.
The former No. 1 overall pick will get a chance to prove his worth in the biggest game of his young career.
Cole, who made his major league debut June 11, has been at least consistent in the majors — just one game where he gave up more than three earned runs (4). But he also can dominate, which is what the Pirates need.
In five September starts, Cole went 4-0 in 32 innings. He struck out 39 and had a 1.69 earned-run average.
Burnett can’t do that.
Here’s what Burnett, who got rocked in Game 1 by the Cardinals and was originally scheduled to start Game 5, did as he staggered down the stretch in September: 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA. After the way the Cards battered him in the third inning, there’s no way I would want him taking the mound.
It’s the best chance the Pirates have.
For more Pirates coverage, click here for the Game 4 story and here for John Dudley’s column.
– Rick Green