Cardinals Vs. Pirates: Bucs Kick Off Divisional Play

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 4: Starter Charlie Morton #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Pirates host the first-place Cardinals for a three-game set.

After beginning their season with a home series against the Phillies and then nine games out west, the Pirates return to familiar environs Friday night as they kick off their first N.L. Central divisional series of the season, against the Cardinals at PNC Park.

If the Pirates have a good series, they might actually be in shape to make some noise in the division, despite a 5-7 start and a lineup that's been less offensive than a Kenny Loggins concert. The Cardinals are 9-4 and are already three games up on the rest of the division; the Pirates, meanwhile, are only a half-game out of second place. With a strong showing this weekend, the Bucs could edge closer to first.

Or, well, a lot of things can happen. It's still mid-April, after all. First, though, the Pirates will have to get through Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse, respectively, all of whom are off to good starts. Lynn, who pitches on Friday, is the least familiar, and probably the most dangerous -- he wasn't a top-notch prospect, but he has a fairly good minor-league record, and he has 53 strikeouts in 46.2 career big-league innings.

Charlie Morton, Kevin Correia and Erik Bedard will start for the Pirates.

Friday's game begins at 7:05 p.m.

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