It’s incredible how the perception of a baseball team can change in a matter of only a few days. After their Labor Day loss to the Houston Astros on Monday, the Pirates had dropped four straight games and had also lost some ground in the N.L. Wild Card picture. Many began to write them off in terms of any type of playoff contention, and were merely “hoping” for a winning season. Now, flash forward a few days, and the Pirates are right back in the middle of the race, having won two straight against the Astros, aided with a loss by the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pirates are a game and a half out of the final playoff spot, and with a conceivably favorable schedule remaining, many fans have decided to be optimistic once again about the Bucs’ chances down the stretch.
Andrew McCutchen continues to show signs of turning back into the player we saw in June and July, while Garrett Jones is having a career season. Pedro Alvarez is always a threat to go deep, while Brock Holt has provided a nice spark at the leadoff spot ever since being called up from AAA Indianapolis. Down the stretch, though, the Pirates are going to need two more players to play vital roles…Starling Marte and Neil Walker. While neither will be available for this weekend’s series against the Chicago Cubs, they will both be crucial to the Bucs’ chances of claiming a postseason spot.
The starting pitching has been solid the past two starts, and with a set of A.J. Burnett, James McDonald, and Jeff Locke, this could be a great weekend at PNC Park. If the starters can put together a string of good outings, and the bullpen can continue what it’s been doing all year, the offense should have more than enough firepower to outscore the Cubbies. Only time will tell, though…stranger things have happened.
Cubs (51-86) vs. Pirates (72-64)
About the Cubs…
51-86 Record, 5th In N.L. Central
Last Series: 0-4 Sweep @ Washington Nationals
The season started out difficult for the Cubs, and it’s only gotten worse. Chicago enters tonight’s game at PNC Park with a 51-86 record, and is in seriously danger of losing 100 games this year. They have been absolutely dreadful since the All Star break, posting a 17-34 record, which included a 7-21 record in August. They will face the Buccos tonight looking for their first victory in September. They were swept by the Washington Nationals in four straight games in one of the more embarrassing performances in recent memory. The Cubs are not playing good baseball right now…even for them.
That being said, the Cubbies have always played the Pirates tough, whether it’s in Pittsburgh or at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Still, they’ve lost six straight, eight of their last ten, and, while they have an even .500 record at home, they are an abysmal 17-52 on the road this year. The only team posting a worse record than that…is the Houston Astros.
Offensively, it’s been frustrating as of late for Cubs’ fans. They have individual players who are extremely talented, but they just don’t have a winning lineup to consistently put out there on the field. Alfonso Soriano is what he is, a high-strikeout guy but boasting power numbers. He leads the team in homeruns (26) and RBI’s (88), while Starlin Castro’s .278 batting average and 67 runs scored lead the team in those respective categories. The problem has been, though, with their inconsistent starting pitching rotation and wavering bullpen, their offense simply can’t keep up. Entering tonight’s game, the Cubs have a -136 run differential on the season. There are only two teams with a worse mark than that: the Astros and the Cleveland Indians.
9/7 – Travis Wood (CHI) (4-11, 4.64 ERA, 86 K, 39 BB, WHIP 1.24) vs. A.J. Burnett (PIT) (15-5, 3.63 ERA, 145 K, 53 BB, WHIP 1.24)
9/8 – Jeff Samardzija (CHI) (8-13, 3.91 ERA, 171 K, 55 BB, WHIP 1.26) vs. James McDonald (PIT) (12-7, 3.90 ERA, 147 K, 62 BB, WHIP 1.21)
9/9 – Chris Rusin (CHI) (0-2, 9.00 ERA, 5 K, 3 BB, WHIP 2.00) vs. Jeff Locke (PIT) (0-1, 4.82 ERA, 7 K, 1 BB, WHIP 0.96)
After taking two of three from the Astros to climb within a game and a half of the final Wild Card spot, the Pirates look to complete a successful home stand this weekend against the Cubs. Every game is crucial now, as the Pirates are officially in a pennant race inside the final month of the regular season.
Be sure to check back here all weekend for recaps and reactions to every Pirates game from us, the Fans From The Stands!
Let’s Go Bucs!