Looking ahead to NLDS Game 3: Cardinals-Pirates

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PNC Park hosted its first-ever postseason game last Tuesday night and the Pirates rose to the occasion in front of a rambunctious, black-shirt-wearing home crowd, securing the National League Wild Card with a decisive 6-2 defeat of the Reds. Now the stakes are raised with the NL Central-champion Cardinals in town for Game 3 of this 1-1 best-of-five NLDS.

The broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS.

Pirates starter Francisco Liriano was brilliant in the Wild Card win versus Cincinnati, scattering four hits and one run over seven dominant innings. He faced the Cardinals three times during the 2013 regular season and was even more lights-out, going 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 20/5 K/BB ratio in 24 total frames. All signs point to the 29-year-old left-hander giving another memorable performance on Sunday, though this sport tends to laugh at such certainties.

Taking the mound for St. Louis will be 25-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly, who had an excellent stretch in the Cardinals’ rotation between early June and late August and actually finished with a better regular-season ERA (2.69) than Liriano (3.02). Kelly has a fastball that can reach into the high-90s and decent breaking stuff, but he doesn’t have great command of that arsenal and he doesn’t rack up many strikeouts. Pair that with the poor St. Louis defense and the Cardinals are susceptible to some ugly innings when Kelly is on the mound.

Pittsburgh’s offense had a big day in Friday’s 7-1 Game 2 victory at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals scored nine runs Thursday in their 9-1 Game 1 win. We’re due for a nail-biter in Game 3, right?

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.