Pittsburgh Pirates prepare for playoffs this weekend in Cincinnati


Sep 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) hits a single against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a phenomenal season, especially considering the last 20 years of baseball in Pittsburgh. However, after a 162-game regular season, the Pirates will very likely be playing in a one-game wild-card playoff against the Cincinnati Reds.

This weekend Pittsburgh will play the Reds in a three-game series in Cincinnati to determine where Tuesday’s wild-card game will be played. A very remote possibility still exists for the Pirates to win the division but they would need to sweep the Reds along with the Cardinals being swept by the Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates’ pitching has been the dominant factor for their remarkable season. The pitching matchups this weekend will be extremely compelling, starting with A.J. Burnett vs. Homer Bailey on Friday night. Burnett has been the driving force of the rotation the last two years, and Bailey usually gives the Pirates problems.

Charlie Morton will then face Bronson Arroyo on Saturday afternoon on national television. Morton has been very dominant for the staff recently, while Arroyo is very hittable and has a 3.60 ERA. The regular season will wrap up Sunday with Gerrit Cole facing Johnny Cueto. Cole has done a great job for the starting staff in his first year in the big leagues. This is what Pirates’ upper management envisioned when they made him the No. 1 pick in 2011. Cueto is a very tough major-league pitcher who has a 5-2 record in a injury-filled season.

The Pirates have been a .500 team since August and they need to continue to ride the dominant pitching that carried them through the first part of the season. The veteran pitchers will definitely help in that regard during this most crucial series. Every single pitch matters at this time of the year and this is a great opportunity for the team to show how talented it is.

The Pirates do not need to look past this weekend, although with the excitement in the area it is hard not to look to the divisional series hopefully to come. I for one already bought my Game 1 tickets for the NLDS, although I will not look past the Reds. I hope the players don’t either.