We took a look yesterday at the two AL Wild Card teams, so today we turn our attention to the game that will provide the Cardinals’ next opponent. Most everyone expects that tonight’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs will be intense and most Cardinal fans are probably just glad it’s not them involved in this one.
These are the second and third best teams, by record, in major league baseball. One of them will go home tonight. We’ll look at the Cubs this afternoon, but to start our previews, we’ve got Brian from Raise The Jolly Roger! The questions are familiar, but the answers are what you come for anyway.
C70: If you had to sum up this season in a word or phrase, what would it be?
RTJR: Amazing, yet still frustrating. It’s kind of hard to appreciate 98 wins when you still come in second place and are headed back to the wild card game…but when you look back at what this team has been able to accomplish, it’s absolutely incredible. But at the same time, you can’t be completely satisfied when they didn’t accomplish their primary stated goal: winning the division.
C70: What worries you the most about the Cubs, beyond the flukes of a one game battle?
RTJR: Well, Jake Arrieta, obviously. The Pirates haven’t hit him much (who has?) and even with Gerrit Cole on the mound and home field advantage, it’s going to be tough. Hopefully they can manage squeak out a few runs and Cole is on his A-game.
C70: Assuming you get past the Wild Card Game, what has to happen for the Pirates to have a deep October run?
RTJR: Clean up the baserunning and defense. Everyone’s feeling pretty good about the lineup and pitching staff right now. The rotation lines up well for the NLDS if the Pirates advance, and they know they can compete with St Louis. The biggest worry is that a costly defensive miscue or baserunning mistake – things that have happened too often this year – could really mess things up.
C70: Is there a player that will be the key to the postseason?
RTJR: Obvious answer, but Andrew McCutchen. When he’s hot, everything changes – and he didn’t have a very good September. He’s been pitched around even more than usual lately, so the guys hitting behind him (Neil Walker, Aramis Ramirez, possibly Starling Marte) could help out with that too.
C70: How high is confidence running among the Pittsburgh faithful?
RTJR: I don’t think anybody’s too confident in the Wild Card game against Arrieta, but if the Pirates can get past that, confidence would be sky-high for the next series and beyond. I’ve seen people considering the NLWC winner to be the NL favorite, and why not? The Bucs and Cubs were #2 and #3 in the NL, and the #1 Cards are banged up. I’ve learned my lesson, though…never, ever doubt St Louis, regardless of how many things seem to be against them.
C70: What’s the minimum that counts as a successful postseason for the Pirates?
RTJR: Win the WCG and beat the Cardinals. They need to go further than they have in the recent era for it to be considered a success. Certainly, the overall season will be considered a success regardless of what happens, but nobody’s going to be happy with a repeat outcome of either of the last two seasons.