The Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers kick off a three game series at PNC Park this week in a battle of two teams who have been heading in different directions since the All Star Break. After a horrible first half, the Brewers have slowly but surely climbed their way back into contention for the final N.L. Wild Card spot. The Brew Crew are 34-27 since the ASG, including a 16-12 August and 11-4 mark in September thus far. Meanwhile, the Bucs were once 16 games over .500 earlier in the season, but have suffered somewhat of an epic collapse as of late, barely managing to hold onto a .500 record, while their playoff hopes seem to be on life support. Pittsburgh is just 26-35 since the ASG, including an 11-17 August and a 4-11 September.
Still, both of these teams have a legitimate opportunity to snag that final playoff spot, thanks in part to the slumping St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks are also still in the hunt at this point, while the winner of this week’s Pirates – Brewers will have a significant advantage going forward over the season’s final two weeks.
Andrew McCutchen is beginning to return to the MVP form we saw in June and July, but the Brewers have their own MVP candidate in Ryan Braun, who is putting up some incredible numbers for the second straight season. Braun has a .312 batting average to go along with his 40 homeruns, 103 RBI’s, and 95 runs scored, all of which lead the team. But while guys like Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks also seem to hit well against the Bucs, one player who won’t do any damage against them in this series is Corey Hart, who may be out for the rest of the season with a foot injury.
Like McCutchen, the Pirates’ offense is beginning to show sings of what they were doing earlier in the season. Pedro Alvarez continues to display the power amidst an abundance of strikeouts, while guys like Starling Marte, Jose Tabata, and yes, even Clint Barmes, are making plays at the plate and in the field.
At this point, it’s not about being pretty…it’s about finding a way…any way…to win ballgames. The Pirates are not playing well right now, by any means, as they had to scrap their way to a split with the Chicago Cubs. But the bottom line is, they are 2.5 games behind the Cardinals with 16 games remaining, and one of the teams in their way is the Milwaukee Brewers. For the first time in recent memory, the Pirates and Brewers are playing a meaningful series in September. Bring on the Brewers. Game on.
9/18 – Yovani Gallardo (MIL) (15-8, 3.72 ERA, 188 K, 72 BB, WHIP 1.29) vs. A.J. Burnett (PIT) (15-7, 3.66 ERA, 157 K, 56 BB, WHIP 1.25)
9/19 – Marco Estrada (MIL) (3-6, 3.77 ERA, 125 K, 25 BB, WHIP 1.16) vs. Kyle McPherson (PIT) (0-0, 1.54 ERA, 11 K, 2 BB, WHIP 0.94)
9/20 – Mike Fiers (MIL) (9-8, 3.23 ERA, 115 K, 32 BB, WHIP 1.20) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) (11-13, 3.65 ERA, 126 K, 51 BB, WHIP 1.27)
As improbable as it may have seemed a couple weeks ago, the Pirates and Brewers are tied in the Wild Card standings, just two and a half games behind the Cardinals for the final playoff spot. Without a doubt, this is the biggest series of the season to this point for the Bucs…meaning the difference between playing for the playoffs and playing for .500. Be sure to check back here all week for the latest recaps and reactions to each Pirates game from us, the Fans From The Stands!
Let’s Go Bucs!