First Pitch: Are the Pirates Limited to the Second Wild Card Spot?

The Pittsburgh Pirates won today, putting them half a game up for the second Wild Card spot. Earlier this week I wrote about how the Pirates aren’t out of the playoffs, although they’re probably confined to the second Wild Card spot, and not in a good position to make a long run. In the playoff odds series, I looked at how they were still in this, thanks to a weak second Wild Card race. They are now leading that race.

So now the question has to be asked: can the Pirates do more? Is it possible for them to win home field in the Wild Card game, or even win the division?

The benefit they have is an easy schedule over the next few weeks. This week they take on Philadelphia and the Cubs once again. Then they’ve got three games against the Red Sox at home, wrapping up the easy part of their schedule. That is followed by three games at home against the Brewers and four games on the road against the Braves — the two teams who are competing with the Pirates for the final Wild Card spot. They finish their season with a three game series against the struggling Reds.

The Pirates definitely have the schedule needed to make the post-season. They have three last place teams, a struggling team, and the two teams they need to beat to get in the post-season. There is no better “ball in your court” scenario than that.

The problem is that the Cardinals have a 4.5 game lead in the NL Central, and the Giants have a 3.5 game lead for the top Wild Card spot. Both of those would be hard to come back against in less than a month.

St. Louis just helped the Pirates out by taking three of four against the Brewers, but maintained their lead in the division in the process. It doesn’t get any more difficult for the Cardinals down the stretch. They have seven games against the Reds, three each against the Rockies, Cubs, and Diamondbacks, and three at home against the Brewers. If you’re going to expect the Pirates to pile up some wins against their easy schedule, then you’d have to expect the same for St. Louis.

It’s slightly more difficult for the Giants. They have six games against the Diamondbacks, and seven games against a Padres team that they’ve been .500 against. They also have six games against the Dodgers. Because of that schedule, I’d say it would be easier for the Pirates to take the top Wild Card spot than the division.

Last year the Pirates looked like one of the best all around teams in the league. This year they’re not in that category, but they’re definitely a good team that can be considered a contender. A team like that should make the playoffs at least with the schedule they have coming up. The most likely scenario would be the second Wild Card spot if they do capitalize on this schedule, but with some help from the Dodgers and Padres, I could see the Pirates having an outside shot at home field in the Wild Card game once again.

Links and Notes

**Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness Clear Waivers

**Allie and Heredia Headline Mexican Winter League Roster Loaded With Pirates

**Josh Harrison Out of the Lineup Today After Being a Gametime Decision

**Morning Report: Checking the Progress of the 2012 Draft Class

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Michael Shaeffer

After all the crap that has happened this year, an away Wild Card game would definitely be welcomed.

John Lease

If they go 8-12, it is a winning season. A nice 23 game winning streak to end the season would get them to 94 wins. It’s going to take something near that to unseat the Cardinals. A sweep of the Phillies, and things will get interesting, but they have to win game 1 of that series first.

Alex Henry

The Cards will finsh with either 88 or 89 win imo not even 90. So do i think the Pirates will when the division? No. But could they if they beat the teams they are suppose to? Yes. And btw 23 wins would give them 97 not 94.

John Lease

Learn mathematics. At 68 losses, the max they can win in a 162 game season is 94. Which includes a 23 game season ending winning streak. Don’t quit your day job?


IMO, 1st place is still on the table, I think the Cards will cool some and I think the Pirates will make a run. We saw the Brewers blow most of an 8 game lead in 2 weeks this summer. The A’s were sitting pretty at the trade deadline, now they are fighting for their playoff lives, a lot can happen in a short period of time. IMO, the Reds are going to have a huge impact on who moves forward.


Maybe the Diamondbacks will take out Posey with an intent to maim pitch to the head. That could change things, right?


I don’t think the Giants would be able to reshuffle their rotation they have six games left with the Dodgers including the penultimate series and are three games back.


Teams usually adjust their rotation if they already have a spot locked up. Hopefully they don’t have the spot locked up going into the last series.


You can bet Baumgarner will be the starter in the WC game, which gives the Pirates a huge disadvantage, especially if they have to play at SF. But hey, the Pirates are still just a half game ahead of 2 teams, so there is a lot of work to be done. Ideally, they will still make a run at the division. St. Louis’ bats have come alive recently, but I still think the Pirates are their equal. Would have been great to get one of those games in St. Louis.


Hey I was in AT&T Park this year when the Bucs pasted Baumgarner and Worley threw a complete game. Anything can happen


It’ll be tough for them to not have a spot locked up if the Braves & Brewers keep stumbling. But they might have to work for home field given they play the Dodgers seven times, with the last three in the penultimate series. So it’s possible they could drop five or six of those seven games and not feel real comfortable going into final series vs Rockies.

Scott Kliesen

I’m happy they are playing meaningful games in September after the start to the season. Although all games are big this time of year, the ones vs. Brewers and Braves will ultimately decide this teams fate. Hopefully, Pirates take care of business vs the Phillies/Cubs/Sox and build a little cushion before they play their W/C rivals.


It would be nice to get a cushion but let’s face it, the three teams involved in this race stink (stink relative to playoff caliber teams) and that is why things change so much from week to week. The Pirates bullpen has blown dozens of games, the Braves go into slumps because they strike out so much and the Brewers have no depth whatsoever at any position. Expect the last 3 weeks to be like the first 23 weeks of the season. All 3 teams will get hot for a few days and all 3 teams will look lost for a while.


Have you looked at the standings lately? Nobody is running away with
the NL. We’ve been fighting with the Cards and Giants all season,and the Giants have been fighting with the Dodgers during the same span. Only the Nats have had an easier time, but as of now they are only tied with LA.

IC Bob

Usually I tend to disagree with your thoughts but you are spot on here. What I do think favor the Bucs is we miss Hamels for the Phils and we miss Hendricks and Arrieta for the Cubs again. Those guys have been winning a lot of games. I think the Cards Dodgers and Nats are heads above the rest but the neat thing with Baseball is its about getting in and then two hot weeks and boom your in the Series.

Scott Kliesen

I would disagree w your contention Pirates/Brewers/Braves stink compared to other NL playoff caliber teams. Quite frankly, I don’t see a dominate team in NL. Any playoff team can win pennant in my opinion.

You’re correct, all three teams are streaky. It’s just this month the streakiness becomes more pronounced usually.


The only pitching staff I fear in a multi game series is the Dodgers, and the Cardinals are close behind. Even the Nationals with Strassburg don’t give me cold sweats. Just get in and let the chips fall.

Nate James

Another wild card game at pnc? The crowd might actually be louder than last year and I was at that game. Either way… I would take any of the scenarios. I think this regime realizes every free agent signature is not a sure thing to work out. It is going to be harder and harder but I am thankful that the pirates are in contention once again. Great day to be a Pittsburgh sports fan! Let’s go bucs!


Having been there myself, I don’t think PNC could possibly be louder or more into a game unless it was a 7th game of a WS. The great thing about the Cueto game was that the fans themselves created the noise and chants organically, no help from the ubiquitous music/sound cues. I’ve been to a handful of playoff & WS games in NYC and the Cueto game was by far the most intense for the longest duration of any game I’ve attended.

Bryan Graham

No need to worry whether they will be the first or second wild card, only worry that they are a wild card when it’s all said and done.


I like home field advantage. So let’s hope the Giants falter as I don’t think the Cardinals will.

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