Scouting report: Pirates-Cardinals

After reaching its first postseason in two decades, can Pittsburgh advance?

Updated: October 2, 2013, 4:58 PM ET
By Eno Sarris | ESPN Insider

The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates will square off in the NLDS this year. The Cardinals led the NL Central for a majority of the season, but their division foe Pirates -- who will play in their first postseason in more than two decades -- have been strong down the stretch.

Here's what to watch, who will win and why.

Key matchup: The Pirates' defense against the Cardinals' hitters

Among postseason teams, only the Rays shifted their defense more than the Pirates this year. Pittsburgh shifted fourth-most in the big leagues, according to Inside Edge, helping its pitchers finish with the fifth-lowest batting average on balls in play in the big leagues this year. But, as Joey Votto of the just-vanquished Reds will tell you, shifts work better on pull hitters.

Unfortunately, no playoff team pulls less than the Cardinals. St. Louis went to the opposite field sixth-most during the season, with Jon Jay, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter among the league leaders in that category. You may see a shift for Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams, who were among the hitters who pulled the ball the most this year, but the shift may lose effectiveness in this series.