The Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization is new to the playoff stretch run. They have not been in this situation in September in a long time.
Prior to getting their 82nd win Monday in Texas, the Pirates lost three straight games to the Cardinals over the weekend. They went into St. Louis leading the National League Central and left in second place. Only 19 games remain in this magical season for the Pirates (82-61), so wins are definitely needed against lower-tier teams such as the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres.
The Pirates still play the Cubs seven times and the Padres four more times. Their other games are two more against a tough Rangers ballclub and six more games against the defending NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds, consisting of one series at home next week and one on the road to end the season.
The Pirates had their chance against the Cardinals last weekend but could not take advantage because of the top-notch St. Louis pitching they faced all series long. The club needs to start playing playoff baseball starting yesterday.
The prospects of the team going far in the playoffs as a wild-card team do not look as good as they did earlier due to their struggling starting pitching. This team all year long has received great pitching, starting and relieving. I for one would hate to see the Pirates pitching go south during the most crucial time of the year.
Pitching is the main ingredient for successful MLB postseason teams for the past 100-plus year. This is why the Pirates are in this position at this time of the year. Recently their starting pitchers have not produced like they have most of the season. The Pirates need quality starts from A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole and hopefully they will get Wandy Rodriguez back before the playoffs start.
Most people would agree that this team is not carried by their hitting. Even with the additions of Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau, the squad will only go as far as their pitching will take them. I wrote an earlier article about this exact subject and here it is, stretch-run time and their hitting disappeared during the series against the Cardinals.
The Pirates’ future is looking like a wild-card opportunity. I would not like to be the person in charge of deciding which pitcher would start that one extremely important playoff game. At this time, I would not know who to put on the mound. If the Pirates can sweep the Cubs in their remaining games and possibly the Padres, they would probably not have to decide on that one pitcher.
If they win their so-called “easy games” remaining, the Pirates could still give their fanbase the chance to support a division-winning team.