The St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday did EXACTLY what they needed to do if they want to beat the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates in their National League division series match-up.
They didn't just win the game. They pummeled the Pirates by a 9-1 score in a game in which they applied pressure early and then never let up.
With the home field advantage in a best of five series, it's vital to win one of the first two games and a huge bonus to win the first two at home. But when you're playing a team that's never been in the spotlight of the postseason before, it's a huge strategic advantage to make it's players feel overwhelmed. Like they don't belong.
Pressure snowballs the the playoffs more more rapidly than in the regular season. Before you know it, things get away from you.
Not only did the Redbirds destroy one of the Pirates best starters with seven runs in two innings pitched. But St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright no-hit Pittsburgh into the fourth inning and allowed only one run before departing after seven innings of work.
The Pirates are going to give everything they have Friday toward getting up off the mat. The Cardinals can either let them up or else shove the Pittsburghers backs up against the wall by putting them down two games to nothing as the series heads to PNC Park.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Adam Wainwright with 7 IP, 3H, 1R, 0BB, 9K.
Cardinals Play of the Game: From a practical standpoint, Carlos Beltran's three-run homer won the game for St. Louis with one swing of the bat. But the Cardinals made several stellar defensive plays including David Freese's diving catch of a line drive, Matt Adams' hustling play to field a grounder than beat the runner to first base and Carlos Martinez spectacular play on a swinging bunt down the third base line during which he made a perfect peg to first base for the out.