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Previewing Friday's Pirates-Cardinals game

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 4:54 p.m.

X-factors

Pirates beat reporter Travis Sawchik'sinside look at Friday's game:

• In five career starts against the Pirates, Shelby Miller is 0-5 with a 5.93 ERA. The first-round pick out of the 2009 has a live arm, but he throws a high percentage of four-seam fastballs which feature less movement than two-seam fastballs. This season, 70.1 percent of Miller's offerings have been four-seamers. The Pirates were the third-best hitting team against four-seam fastballs in baseball in 2013, according to Fangraphs.com, and are the ninth-best offense against four-seam fastballs early in 2014. Until Miller adjusts, it's a good matchup for the Pirates.

• Gerrit Cole has faced the Cardinals three times in his young career, with two of those starts coming in last year's NLDS. In those combined 18 innings against St. Louis, Cole has a 2.50 ERA and a 13-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Cole's fastball is averaging 95.5 mph early this season. The pitch averaged 96.1 mph last season.

The Buzz

Andrew McCutchen has begun to play like a reigning MVP. He entered Thursday having homered in three straight games.

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