After an electrifying win over the Cincinnati Reds in Tuesday’s National League wild card game, the Pittsburgh Pirates will experience the franchise’s first best-of-five NL Division Series, which starts at 5 p.m. Thursday in St. Louis.
As expected, there are a few changes from the Pirates’ 25-man wild card roster, which was tailored to the all-or-nothing nature of the play-in game, to the list of players available as the Bucs challenge the division-rival Cardinals.
The biggest differences are regarding the pitching staff, as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel early Thursday afternoon. While the same seven relievers (Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris, Jeanmar Gomez) that were active for Tuesday will continue to be so, starters A.J. Burnett and Charlie Morton join fellow rotation members Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole on the new 25-man.
With the pitching corps expanded by two, that means a pair of position players had to go. Rookie backup catcher Tony Sanchez was the first “victim,” as the Pirates will go with starter Russell Martin and veteran second-stringer John Buck behind the plate in the NLDS.
Travis Snider will also be inactive for the upcoming series, with Pittsburgh electing to go with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Marlon Byrd, Jose Tabata and Garrett Jones in the outfield. The Bucs and manager Clint Hurdle will have a group of seven available infielders: Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, Neil Walker, Justin Morneau, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Gaby Sanchez.
If the bench seems a bit longer than usual, that’s because it is. The Pirates are employing 11 pitchers instead of the 12-man staff usually seen in the regular season. Our Matt Shetler laid out the projected starting rotation Wednesday on City of Champions, with Burnett getting the call against Adam Wainwright in Thursday’s Game 1.
The Cardinals’ 25-man NLDS roster can be viewed here. Unlike Pittsburgh, St. Louis will carry 12 pitchers, which will help the bullpen depth but limit manager Mike Matheny’s pinch-hitting options.
UPDATE – The Pirates’ starting lineup for Game 1 is as follows: Marte LF, Walker 2B, McCutchen CF, Morneau 1B, Byrd RF, Alvarez 3B, Martin C, Barmes SS, Burnett P
The Cardinals counter with: Matt Carpenter 2B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Matt Adams 1B, Yadier Molina C, Jon Jay CF, David Freese 3B, Daniel Descalso SS, Wainwright P
My prediction for the series: Pirates in four games.