If the current series between the Pirates and Cardinals is the biggest in the 12-year history of PNC Park, then Tuesday might just be the biggest single day for the Bucs in at least that long.
Less than 24 hours after Pittsburgh beat St. Louis, 9-2, and cut the Cardinals' lead in the National League Central to a half-game, the Pirates will host a doubleheader as part of a five-game set between the two clubs. Win both, and Pittsburgh could take a 1 1/2-game lead in a division it's never won.
But the Pirates have watched the Cardinals enjoy a lot of success in the last two decades, while they haven't even had a winning season since 1992. Tuesday marks an opportunity for the Pirates to prove they're capable of capitalizing in the second half of a season after faltering down the stretch in the last two years, and manager Clint Hurdle suggested that his team has been able to learn from watching the Cardinals.
"The team across the field there, their history and tradition speaks for itself," Hurdle said. "They were in the playoffs last year, they've been in the playoffs a handful of times in the last two dozen years. Can it [help]? Probably. But I know a lot of things need to be done for the first time. There's an opportunity for us to embrace and embark on some things we're doing for the first time in a while."
St. Louis, which has lost four in a row for the first time this season, is Pittsburgh's primary obstacle in its quest for a winning season and long-awaited playoff appearance. But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny doesn't want to place too much emphasis on Tuesday's games or the series in general. He did, though, make sure he had Lance Lynn facing off against the A.J. Burnett in Game 1 of the doubleheader.
"We wanted our more experienced pitcher lining up with theirs," Matheny said.
Cardinals right-hander Tyler Lyons will get the nod against Brandon Cumpton in Game 2.
Lynn enters Game 1 with a 12-5 record and 3.98 ERA, and he is coming off one of his best outings of the season. After losing back-to-back starts for the second time in less than a month, he held the Phillies to just one run on five hits and four walks while striking out six in seven innings.
Burnett, meanwhile, will make his fifth start since coming off the disabled list with a torn right calf. He went 0-1 with a 2.31 ERA and threw just 23 1/3 innings over his four previous outings.
The 36-year-old right-hander has allowed our runs in the first inning in each of his last two starts, but only two of those runs were earned. In his most recent start, against the Nationals on Thursday, he went seven innings -- six scoreless -- but was the victim of three errors in the first frame.
"Part of baseball, man. Those things happen. Things you can't control," Burnett said. "[My teammates] have to realize it didn't faze me, and it shouldn't faze them, either. We've got a long way to go. My job is to keep making quality pitches, no matter what, and get deep into the game."
Cardinals: Lyons returns to rotation for one day
After Lynn makes his 32nd Major League start in Game 1, 26-year-old Lyons will take the mound as a big leaguer for just the seventh time.
Lyons made six starts in May and June, giving up four runs or more in his final four outings before being demoted to Triple-A Memphis. There, though, he was strong, surrendering six runs and 16 hits in 40 2/3 innings (six starts) while walking eight and striking out 37. Matheny sent Lyons to Memphis to improve on some specific things, and he said the lefty succeeded in doing so.
"He was terrific," Matheny said. "We saw some very good outings here, too. He just got to the point where he was a little inconsistent with the strike zone. We just challenged him to work ahead in the count and be able to have that feel when he first came up. He went back and did a real nice job with that. I'm excited for him to come back here and show us."
With teams allowed to add an extra player for a doubleheader scheduled at least 48 hours in advance, the Cardinals plan to add Lyons for just one day as the 26th man on the active roster. However, Lyons was with the team on Monday and had an opportunity to get a feel for the Pirates before pitching against them.
"I was happy that I was able to get here a day early and get to feel it out again," Lyons said. "I get comfortable with the place and the other team, everything. I was happy I was able to get here today."
Pirates: McKenry hits DL, Presley recalled
Outfielder Alex Presley immediately took advantage of his promotion to the Majors on Monday by scoring and driving in a run in the Pirates' 9-2 win over the Cardinals. Unfortunately, that opportunity came at the expense of Michael McKenry, who hit the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left knee.
McKenry jammed the knee sliding to break up a double play on Saturday, when he delivered the first four-hit game of his career. He remained in the game and tested the knee on Sunday, which left it swollen on Monday and led to the decision to place him on the DL. Now he's forced to miss a crucial series.
"I hate it, of course. I want to be a part of it," McKenry said. "But it was the smartest thing for the team, to bring in someone else who can help right away. We're about to play a huge series."
• The last time PNC Park played host to a five-game series, it was the ballpark's inaugural 2001 season, and the Pirates went 3-2 against the Astros from July 26-29.
• The Cardinals' 537 hits and 101 home runs at PNC Park since it opened in 2001 are second only to the Pirates.
• The Pirates enter Tuesday with a 4-2 record against the Cardinals this season, including 2-1 at home.
• Pittsburgh is 19-1 at home this season when center fielder Andrew McCutchen notches two or more hits.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.