If St. Louis Cardinals fans partied it up on Thursday night in celebration, it’s likely that on Friday night they’re hitting the bottle.

What happened at Busch Stadium Friday afternoon was the polar opposite of Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Thursday, the Cardinals hit well, pitched well and fielded well while the Pirates did absolutely nothing. On Friday, the Pirates hit well, pitched well and fielded well while the Cardinals did absolutely nothing.

Just like with a win, it’s important to keep things in perspective. What happened Friday was just one game. The same was said about Thursday.

Obviously a split isn’t the ideal situation, but this team has been good at putting a bad day behind them. Manager Mike Matheny said he doesn’t see this as different from any other loss.

While he can’t control their approach, he is confident that they have the mental tools to do what needs to be done to keep the season going.

“They’re going to do what they want to do and think how they want to think, but it would surprise me if they’re doing anything different than just getting ready to go out and put their best effort forward,” Matheny said.

With that said, the Sunday game likely won’t be an easy one. They’ll have to contend with a crowd that is beyond energetic and Francisco Liriano, who has owned the Cardinals in 2013.

During the regular season, Liriano was 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA against the Cardinals. He’s surrendered only 10 hits and two runs over a span of 24 innings pitched.

There are two ways to look at this for the Cardinals. The pessimist would likely say the Cardinals are doomed to go down 2-0 in the series. The optimist, on the other hand, would say that Liriano is due for a bad start against the Cardinals.

A look at his success against other teams shows that Liriano—despite his current appearance—is not Cy Young. He has been shelled by the Milwaukee Brewers (5.52, 14 IP, 9 ER in three starts), the Colorado Rockies (9.64, 10 ER in two starts), the San Francisco Giants (7.20, 8 ER in two starts) and the Cincinnati Reds (0-3, 3.70, 10 ER in 24.1 IP over four starts.)

Each of those teams’ batting averages against Liriano is double (the Giants are triple) what the Cardinals have done when they faced him.

While the Cardinals have struggled badly against left-handed batters, Liriano is beatable. Matheny continues to remind them of that.

“Hope the mindset is they can’t wait to get back out there and compete regardless of who they throw out there against us,” Matheny said. “We’ve had some matchups with some guys that have had success against us in the past, and they’re able to get past what the projections are and just play the game.”

“So, that’s what I’ll be encouraging.” 

The reality of the situation is that because they are tied, what the Cardinals face now is basically a three-game series where they don’t have home-field advantage. However, the first pitcher they will face is more mediocre than his numbers against the Cardinals indicate.

If the Cardinals can keep their heads on straight, focus on what they can change and ignore their history with Liriano, they could turn this series around in a hurry on Sunday.

Hang in there, Cardinals fans.

Stats are from Baseball Reference and are current through Oct. 4, 2013.

All quotes obtained firsthand by the author.

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