ST. LOUIS — Due to licensing concerns, Major League Baseball cracked down on the Pirates for wearing Stargell stars in the National League wild-card game.
The small, black stars with a gold “P” are not allowed to be visible on uniforms. Yet that hasn’t stopped some players and coaches from wearing them during the NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. They’ve tucked the stars out of sight, such as under the bill of a cap.
Four decades ago, Hall of Famer Willie “Pops” Stargell originated the practice of handing out the stars to reward teammates for outstanding plays. Bench coach Jeff Banister, who considered Stargell a close friend and mentor, gave each player a star before the game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“That was awesome for Banny to do that,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “It was such a great tribute to Pops.”
Check your tickets
The Pirates advise fans who prepurchased tickets to NLDS Games 3 and 4 at PNC Park to make sure they bring the correct tickets to the game.
The ticket for Sunday’s game is marked “NLDS Game 1” (even though it’s the third game of the series) and Monday’s is marked “NLDS Game 2.” The ticket marked “NLDS Game 3” is not valid because there will be only two games played at PNC Park in this series.
Mercer gets a start
Jordy Mercer started at shortstop Friday, just his second time in the lineup in the past six games. Clint Barmes started Game 1 at shortstop but was benched after making an error that led to a run.
“It’s all a learning experience for me,” Mercer said. “If I’m not in the lineup, I’m always ready. Anytime my name’s in the lineup, I’m ready to roll.”
Mercer played the first seven innings Friday, then was replaced by Barmes.
Adams going home
Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams grew up in Philipsburg and attended Slippery Rock University. He had a big group of friends at PNC Park when the Cardinals played there earlier this season, but only his mom and dad are coming to Sunday’s Game 3.
“It will be neat to be playing close to my hometown,” Adams said. “But I’m more focused on getting a ‘W’ than I am about playing in front of friends and family.”
Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano will start Game 3 on Sunday against Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly.
The Pirates will start right-hander Charlie Morton in Game 4 on Monday in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals will start rookie righty Michael Wacha.
Wacha had two appearances against the Pirates this season. The first was a relief outing Aug. 14, when he tossed two scoreless innings and struck out four. On Sept. 8, he started and got the win, allowing two hits and two walks in seven innings.
“It’s hard to ignore what Michael did in his last start,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, referring to Wacha’s near-no-hitter against Washington. “I really liked the way he finished (the season), and that was the deciding factor.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle bristled when asked if righty A.J. Burnett would be in the bullpen for Game 4, just as Gerrit Cole was available in the wild-card game that Francisco Liriano started.
“I really don’t care to spend a lot of time (talking) about Game 4 or Game 5,” Hurdle said. “There are a lot of different options and ways we can go as we continue to play and map it out.”
The decision to start Wacha means righty Shelby Miller, who started 31 games this season for the Cardinals, will work out of the bullpen.
“He’ll be available for whatever we need,” Matheny said. “If one of our starters needs help early, we’re not going to be shy to have him come into the game and pitch as long as we need him.”
Cards had it made in shade
Game 1 started at 4 p.m. Central time with a shadow that stopped short of the pitcher’s mound. For batters, picking up the ball coming from light to shade can be difficult, especially with curveball specialists Burnett and Adam Wainwright on the mound. It’s no surprise, then, that neither team did much at the plate in the first two innings.
“It’s so hard for a hitter to read spin when (the ball) looks like a gray blob,” TBS analyst Tom Verducci said.
“It was challenging,” Walker said. “Anytime there’s a mid-afternoon game, as a (batter) the first thing you wonder about is, ‘I wonder what the shadows are going to be like.’ But both teams had to deal with it.”
The Cardinals dealt with it better. In the third inning, when the entire infield was covered by a shadow, they scored seven runs off Burnett.
Friday’s game started at noon, so shade and sun were not factors.
According to ticket marketer RazorGator, the average cost of a Pirates ticket on the resale market has zoomed from worst to first over the course of this season.
On Opening Day, the average price of a Pirates ticket on the secondary market was $39, the lowest price in the majors. By the All-Star break, the cost had risen to $53, which was 18th highest.
“The Pirates hold the most expensive Division Series ticket of any of the eight teams,” said RazorGator spokeswoman Christi Goza.
The average price for a resale ticket for NLDS Game 1 at Busch Stadium was $46.17. The average cost for a ticket to Game 3 Sunday at PNC Park is $282.14.