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Wow, what can we say about our Pittsburgh Pirates? After falling 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, the Bucs are now 72-70 on the season, just two games over that infamous .500 mark. They are currently on a six-game losing streak following series sweeps at the hands of the Reds and the Chicago Cubs, and haven’t won more than two games in a row since the end of July. Actually, they’ve been playing poor baseball since the All Star break, infuriating fans across the region.

Still, though, despite the freefall of the past month or so, the Pirates are astonishingly still within shouting distance of the postseason. Entering this afternoon’s series-opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Bucs are three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot in the National League.

Other teams vying for that final spot with the Pirates and Cardinals include the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as the suddenly red-hot Philadelphia Phillies (who had their eight game winning streak snapped last night against the Houston Astros) and the Milwaukee Brewers. While a few weeks ago, it looked as if the final spot would come down to a three-team race between the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates, it now appears as though none of these teams wants to advance to play meaningful baseball in October.

The story of this current losing streak has been lack of offense. In fact, the Pirates are averaging barely over two runs per game during this stretch, which has wasted a handful of strong performances by the starting rotation. Andrew McCutchen has impressive numbers this season (.340 average, 26 homeruns, 85 RBI, 97 runs scored), but he struggled significantly in August. Lately, he has been showing signs of returning to form, but if this team is going to make a run, it has to do it on the shoulders of Cutch. Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez have cooled significantly, and with Neil Walker’s back issues and Starling Marte suddenly looking like an overwhelmed rookie, this team is searching for offense anywhere and everywhere.

Pirates (72-70) vs. Cubs (56-87)

About the Cubs…
56-87 Record, 5th In N.L. Central
Last Series: 2-1 Series Victory @ Houston Astros

The Chicago Cubs have lost 87 games this year, and if it weren’t for the Houston Astros, they would be the worst team in all of Major League Baseball. Their pitching rotation has been denounced to virtual no-names and minor-leaguers, while their offense shows flashes of brilliance overwhelmed by underproduction and inexperience.

So why are they playing such good baseball right now? The Cubs have won five of their last six games, including a three-game sweep of our Pirates at PNC Park last weekend. Before their series in Pittsburgh, however, they had lost their first six games of the month, including two to the San Francisco Giants and four to the Washington Nationals. But after a 5-1 road trip in Pittsburgh and Houston, the Cubbies return home to Wrigley Field. We hope they cooled down on the flight back to Chi-town.

Alfonso Soriano strikes out a lot and plays a horrible left field…right? Well, not against the Pittsburgh Pirates apparently. He’s made several nice plays with the glove this season against the Bucs, and has hit some of the biggest hits of the games played between the two clubs, including last weekend’s series sweep. He leads the Cubs in homeruns (29) and RBI’s (96), while Starlin Castro has team high marks in batting average (.280) and runs scored (69). Chicago, as a team, has hit well against the Pirates’ pitching all season. Again, we, as fans, can only hope that changes this weekend.

Pitching Matchups:

9/14 – James McDonald (PIT) (12-7, 3.93 ERA, 149 K, 64 BB, WHIP 1.22) vs. Chris Rusin (CHI) (0-2, 5.73 ERA, 9 K, 6 BB, WHIP 1.82)

9/15 – Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) (10-13, 3.72 ERA, 122 K, 50 BB, WHIP 1.26) vs. Jason Berken (CHI) (0-0, 18.00 ERA, 0 K, 1 BB, WHIP 7.00)

9/16 – Jeff Locke (PIT) (0-1, 4.11 ERA, 13 K, 1 BB, WHIP 1.04) vs. Chris Volstad (CHI) (3-10, 5.99 ERA, 52 K, 36 BB, WHIP 1.55)

9/17 – Kevin Correia (PIT) 10-9, 4.29 ERA, 67 K, 42 BB, WHIP 1.33) vs. Travis Wood (CHI) (6-11, 4.23 ERA, 97 K, 43 BB, WHIP 1.18)

The Pirates, despite playing horribly for the past month and a half, are shockingly just three games back for the final Wild Card spot. A successful weekend in Chicago is necessary if they’re going to turn things around here in the final weeks of the season. Be sure to check back here for the latest recaps and reactions to each game from us, the Fans From The Stands!

And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!