The St. Louis Cardinals and host Pittsburgh Pirates will be peering beyond their series that starts on Monday, but in much different ways.
It is the final regular-season series for both teams.
St. Louis (92-67) has wrapped up the National League Central title and will be looking ahead to the playoffs while awaiting word on its wild-card opponent.
Pittsburgh (60-99) has a shot at finishing ahead of the Cincinnati Reds to avoid last place in the NL Central but is simply trying to get several young players experience as the Pirates look toward the future.
The teams are changing venues after having just played three games against one another. In St. Louis, the Pirates avoided a sweep — and their 100th loss — with a 7-5 win on Sunday and hope to be competitive in the upcoming set.
“Any time we’re out on the field and it’s a major league contest, we’re going to play as hard as we can,” Pittsburgh outfielder Ben Gamel told AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals are coming off a meaningful day despite the loss. Retiring veterans Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina were honored before Sunday’s contest, and they were pulled from the game in the fifth along with veteran starter Adam Wainwright, allowing them to walk off together to a rousing ovation.
“It was an emotional day,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said.
In the series opener, Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (5-12, 3.92 ERA) is expected to start. St. Louis has not announced a probable starter.
For Keller, it will be his final chance to make a statement as far as proving himself worthy of being in the rotation after he spent some time in the bullpen earlier this season.
He seemingly has made a good case for himself, with a 2.65 ERA over his past 14 outings, although his record of 3-6 during that stretch isn’t as glowing. He also has allowed no more than three earned runs in 18 of 21 starts since he was reinstated to the rotation at the end of May.
Keller took a no-decision Tuesday against Cincinnati, giving up one run in five innings. Monday’s start will give him a chance to redeem himself after that outing after Pirates manager Derek Shelton noted that he didn’t look his sharpest by any means.
“He had trouble with the fastball. Continued to ride to his arm-side. The slider and the curveball weren’t as sharp,” Shelton said. “But I do think the fact that he was able to execute pitches … just shows that he is maturing and he’s still able to battle when he doesn’t have his best stuff.”
Keller didn’t want to knock himself too much.
“Just looking back, not really happy with the outing,” he said. “But at the end of the day, (I) kept us in it and we ended up getting a win, and that’s all that really matters.”
Keller is 2-1 with a 3.35 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals, including an 0-1 mark in three starts this year.
–Field Level Media