Great morning, afternoon or evening to all of you on this fabulous day. What day, you ask? The day after the Pittsburgh Pirates finally broke out of the worst slump in professional sporting history and returned to the MLB postseason.
Not every game along the way has been pretty and the Pirates certainly haven’t won them all, but they have won enough. Enough to make 18 other teams in the league envious of their placement.
With very few games left to go, the Pirates can now focus themselves on trying to win the National League Central, or at worst try to win the one-game wild-card playoff vs. St. Louis or Cincinnati. It is still possible for the team to take the division crown, but with a couple games down and so few left, it’s going to be tough.
The Pirates have a couple more games against the Cubs and the weekend at the Reds, while St. Louis is finishing up two with the Nationals and three vs. the Cubs to wrap up their season. The Nationals might be very deflated to this point and fold up shop, allowing the Cardinals to win their matchups. They could also use the motivation to say they want to finish strong despite coming up short and try to play the role of spoiler.
Let’s hope the latter is the case and the next two games are bad ones for the Cardinals. If the Pirates can beat the Cubs twice more and the Nationals win twice over the Cardinals while the Reds sweep the Mets, we’d have a three-way tie heading into the weekend.
At that point, it’s pretty much up for grabs, although most will suggest the easier road is for the Cardinals who will be at home vs. Chicago compared to the other two teams fighting each other for position. It does make for the potential of a great weekend but I would much rather have seen the Nationals win Monday night and have a chance to beat the Cards one out of two compared to having to win both with nothing on the line anymore.
On the positive side, it still looks as though the Cubs are playing tough so maybe the Nationals win one of two while the Cubs sneak one of three and the Pirates finish the season undefeated. That would put the Pirates and Cardinals in a tie and set up a one-game showdown for the Central.
I’m not Nostradamus and I’ll never claim to be; however, I have thought of some scenarios that could help or hurt the Pirates’ chances. If the Bucs win Game 2 against the Cubs, should Liriano pitch his scheduled game Wednesday or push back to Friday, making the weekend rotation as Liriano, Burnett and Cole? If Liriano gets pushed back to Friday, he may not be available for the one-game playoff and Charlie Morton would be the most likely to pitch that game. Who do you feel more comfortable with in that situation?
I will say the Pirates will win these last two against the Cubs with Liriano pitching Game 3 and the weekend being Burnett, Morton and Cole while Jeff Locke is probably done for the season. The weekend should feature the Pirates winning two of three and hosting the one-game playoff vs the Reds while St. Louis wins enough to take the Central. The Reds’ Mike Leake is in order to pitch the playoff, but there are some rumors the Reds may push Homer Bailey to that start.
Whether or not the Pirates can make it to the dvisional rounds will depend on their ability to score in clutch situations and will require the continuation of strong pitching performances. The bullpen will need to be on point – Jason Grilli is back closing and he shut the door on the opposing teams.
Do the Pirates have enough to do it? Of course but they will also need to wake up the bats and not spoil any quality starts the pitching staff will give them. Otherwise, it could be a very short stay in the playoffs. I am honestly thrilled that we even have this to worry about so just sit back and enjoy the ride.