MLB: NLDS-Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

There is no shame in losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. They’re the Cardinals, the Yankees of Flyover Country. The factory for nameless, faceless productive Major Leaguers. They are quietly, annoyingly, the most successful team in baseball over the last decade. Since losing the 2004 World Series in four straight, the Cards have reached the playoffs six times, winning the title twice.

The Pirates don’t have that kind of championship pedigree. This was their first trip to the playoffs since 1992. The are the underdogs who suffered and then built their team beautifully, hitting on several high draft picks and refusing to give up young pieces for short term fixes.

They might come from different ends of baseball spectrum but tonight they were oh so close. In a deciding game, a couple breaks or a couple mistakes are all it takes.

Pittsburgh played well but the Cardinals punished even the slightest mistakes. Gerrit Cole looked greet on the mound, striking out five batters and walking just one. He allowed only three hits. But one of those hits was a home run by David Freese. Cole hung a slider and Freese banged it.

The breaks Pittsburgh received were minor by comparison. Three routine ground balls turn into infield hits, producing the Pirates lone run. A very close call appeared to go against them. They faced Adam Wainwright, who made a grand total of zero mistakes.

After Cole’s lone hanger, the Pirates called on Mark Melancon to hold the lead at 3-1. After a great season in the bullpen for Pittsburgh, Melancon made a location mistake against Matt Adams. Fastball down the middle. Boom. 5-1 Cardinals, game effectively over.

The Pirates should go back to their fans, after a suitable mourning period, with their heads held high. Fans of the Buccos will greet their team like conquering heroes and then the job of getting ready for 2014 begins. The present is bright in Pittsburgh and the future only looks brighter. It is a good time to be a Pirates fan.

It is always a good time to be a Cardinals fan. The best run organization in the game goes about their awful, clinical business and moves on to another NLCS. The Cardinals will face the Dodgers, a study in contrasts if ever there was one. A team full of home grown, cheap controlled talent versus the best team money can buy. Two very good teams battle for the right to move to the World Series. Can they start tomorrow?