It won't be surprising if Pittsburgh Pirates fans stay away from PNC Park on Friday night, even with the World Series champions in town for the first time this year.
After all, the city's hockey team has a critical game that evening and the Penguins' goal total in their playoff series has nearly matched the Pirates' season total in runs.
Pittsburgh fans who do show up will no doubt be happy that Albert Pujols is no longer with the St. Louis Cardinals as these NL Central rivals open a weekend series.
The Pirates (5-7) have 26 runs for baseball's worst total, while the Penguins have scored 22 goals through four games of their first-round series with Philadelphia. The Penguins stayed alive with Wednesday's 10-3 win to force Game 5 at home Friday.
That means a sparse crowd can be expected to see St. Louis (9-4) without Pujols, who signed with the Angels in the offseason. His 49 home runs against Pittsburgh are the most of any active player, and he hit .376 with 29 homers at PNC Park - the most of any visiting player.
St. Louis, which had its four-game win streak snapped with Thursday's 6-3 loss to Cincinnati, has some injury issues. Center fielder Jon Jay left after the seventh inning with a sprained right shoulder and said X-rays showed no significant damage. He is day to day.
General manager John Mozeliak said first baseman Lance Berkman will be placed on the disabled list with a left calf injury. The Cardinals plan on activating utilityman Skip Schumaker.
Pittsburgh could be in for a challenge against Lance Lynn (2-0, 1.50 ERA), who has been stellar in two starts filling in with Chris Carpenter on the disabled list. Lynn has struck out 13 over 12 innings, and he yielded one run over 5 1-3 innings in Saturday's 5-1 home win over the Cubs.
"I'm just going to try and do what I'm capable of and not try to do too much," Lynn said. "Just make pitches and try not to give up runs."
The right-hander's only appearance against the Pirates came as a rookie July 24, when he gave up one run over two innings of relief.
The Pirates are back home after winning three of four to cap a 3-6 trip. They have split eight one-run games, beating Arizona 5-4 on Tuesday and 2-1 on Wednesday.
"You can tell our nerves are way more calm than last year," second baseman Neil Walker said. "One-run games in the big leagues? That's big time."
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen batted .412 on the trip, with six hits over his last two games.
Charlie Morton (0-0, 5.40) will make his second start for Pittsburgh after allowing three runs over five innings Saturday in a 4-3 loss at San Francisco.
The right-hander, who began this year on the disabled list while recovering from hip surgery, is 2-5 with a 6.25 ERA in nine starts against St. Louis.
The Cardinals, who went 9-7 against the Pirates last season, are a major league-best 5-0 in night games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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