Pittsburgh Pirates: One Game Going Wild


Earlier this season in another column I had written, I had pointed out that the Pittsburgh Pirates had made three consecutive playoff appearances only twice in the entire long history of the club.

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From 1970-1972 the Bucs reached the playoffs and in 1971 won the World Series. Beginning in 1990, Pittsburgh won their division in three straight seasons only to lose each time in the league championship series first to the Cincinnati Reds and twice more to the Atlanta Braves.

On Wednesday, October 7, the Buccos will be in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Ironic isn’t it that this is the third time the Pittsburgh Pirates have been in the post-season three straight seasons, never getting past three consecutive playoff seasons.

The last two playoff years in 2013 and 2014 resulted in a wild card victory over those same Reds but last year was a disappointing one-game blowout to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants. No Pirates fan will ever forget the Cincinnati game that featured the “Cuato” chant that probably could have been heard back in Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh’s opponent for this year’s wild card game will be their third different opponent in three years. This year it is the Chicago Cubs who the Pirates have met 19 times this season. Chicago holds an 11-8 advantage and has out scored the Bucs in those games 81-71. When playing at PNC Park,  Pittsburgh has won four and lost five. In Chicago, the record is almost identical at 4-6.

Back on September 15, the Cubs and Pirates played a double-header in Chicago that saw Pittsburgh take the first game but lose the next three. A little more than a week later, the Pirates bounced back to win two of three played in the ‘Burgh.

Who will start for the Pittsburgh Pirates on the mound for the one-game winner takes all? The logical choice would seem to be the man with the most victories this season, Gerrit Cole. Sporting 19 victories against only eight defeats, it’s obvious that either Cole or Francisco Liriano will be the starting pitcher of record. The Pirates have won 16 of the last 17 games started by Liriano so the choice may be difficult for manager Clint Hurdle.

For the Chicago Cubs, expect Jake Arrieta to be the pitcher that will start. With 22 wins this season, he is far and away Chicago’ best pitcher. Cubs manager Joe Maddon promised a playoff appearance for Cubbie fans and he delivered.

The long-suffering Chicago fans have been waiting for another World Series appearance since 1945 when they lost to the Detroit Tigers four games to three. Incredibly, the Cubs have not won a World Series title in 107 years! As for Pittsburgh, their last series appearance came in 1979, when the “We are Family” Willie Stargell-led Bucs defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the seven game series.

When it comes to stats, heading into the season’s final two games, the Pirates sport the fourth highest batting average in the N.L. with an average of .260, whereas the Cubs rank sixth (.244). Chicago has the fifth most home runs with 171. The Pirates have only slugged 139 putting them 10th overall. For runs scored, the Pirates hold the advantage there by a margin of 692-685.

Unless they steal a few more bases in the final two games, the Pirates have 98 thefts in 2015. Chicago? 92. A not so great category to lead in is hit-by-pitches which Pittsburgh leads the National League with 88, but the Cubs are not far behind with 73. The Pirates number of hit batters actually leads the entire major leagues.

On the mound, from the bullpen, the Bucs trail only those St. Louis Cardinals in saves 62-54. Chicago comes in with 46. Chicago’s staff leads the league with 1,414 strikeouts and Pittsburgh trails them with 1,318. You may see a lot of thievery in this one game playoff since Pittsburgh’s pitchers have surrendered the most stolen bases in the N.L. With 143,  but those Cubbies are not far behind allowing 136 stolen bases.

Back when I was a teenager watching baseball in the 1970s, complete games and shutouts were a common occurrence. Not so much anymore, but heading into baseball’s final weekend  this Chicago Cubs trails only the Los Angeles Dodgers in team shutouts with 20, one fewer than L.A. Pittsburgh has just 12. Perhaps the most incredible statistic of all however, are the complete games.

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  • Consider this, just 29 years ago, the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela completed 20 games to lead the major leagues. In 2015, the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants are the N.L. leaders as a team in complete games with JUST seven! Chicago is right behind with six. The Pirates? A big fat ZERO. They have not had a starting pitcher make it to the ninth inning.

    Middle relief and closers are the trend of today’s Major League Baseball so complete games are a forgotten part of baseball. The Pirates have one of the best if not the finest bullpen in all of baseball. That will be key for this game and beyond. Is either team good enough to be a World Series champion? Only time will tell. One fact that can’t be argued is that the N.L. Central is the division best represented in this year’s playoffs. In are the Pirates, Cubs, and Cardinals. No other division can make that claim.

    Both teams want the same thing…a crack at the St. Louis Cardinals who seem like they  win the National League Central title every year. More so, the Pirates and Cubs want to reach that promised land called the World Series.

    The pick here without trying to use bias, is the Pirates. Simply because it is my opinion here that they are the better team. If Pittsburgh prevails next week  they HAVE to find the formula for beating St. Louis.

    Next: NFL: Week Four Predictions and Outcomes

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