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Preview: Pirates at Cardinals

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Apr 24 2014 08:26:03 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2014 08:26:03 PM CDT

The St. Louis Cardinals return home looking to get the bats going when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game set Friday night. The Cardinals, who entered Thursday ranked 14th in the National League in runs per game at 3.6, produced only 13 in the final seven games of a 5-6 road trip. The finale was a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday, when St. Louis recorded just three singles and a double to fall for the fifth time in seven games overall.The Pirates, who limited the Cardinals to nine runs in taking two of three at home earlier this month, have dropped 11 of 14. They also have struggled offensively while scoring only four runs over the final three games of a series with Cincinnati, including a 2-1 setback on Thursday. Pittsburgh was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on in falling to 9-14, all against the National League Central.TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, MLB Network, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (2-1, 3.67 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Shelby Miller (1-2, 3.57)Cole got the better of Miller in his season debut April 4 at home, allowing two runs in seven innings of a 12-2 rout, and he gave up only three runs and five hits in 11 innings against St. Louis during the 2013 National League Division Series. He tossed a career-high eight innings in Pittsburgh's 3-2 loss to Milwaukee in 14 innings on Sunday, getting in the middle of a bench-clearing brawl after jawing with Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez. The former No. 1 pick has given up nine runs (eight earned) and 14 hits with five walks in 12 innings on the road this year.Miller has recovered well from the rocky beginning in Pittsburgh earlier this month, posting a 2.08 ERA in three starts since. However, he has walked a bit of a tightrope by issuing 11 free passes in that span and enters this one with 14 walks (as well as five home runs against) in 22 2/3 innings on the season. The 23-year-old, who is 0-5 with a 5.93 ERA versus the Pirates, is 10-4 with a 1.77 mark in 19 games (18 starts) at home in his career.WALK-OFFS1. Pirates C Russell Martin has missed the last two games and manager Clint Hurdle called Thursday's absence a "maintenance" day.2. The Cardinals were 6-3 against the Pirates at home last year.3. Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez has three hits in 13 at-bats against Miller, all of them home runs.PREDICTION: Cardinals 4, Pirates 3

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