Tomorrow morning I’ll be flying up to St. Louis to cover the three game series between the Pirates and the Cardinals. When I booked the trip, I figured it would be a big matchup, with the possibility that it could have an impact on the division. Last week it appeared that the Pirates could have a shot at leading the division by the end of the series.
And then Miller Park happened.
The Pirates, one of the best teams in baseball, went in to Milwaukee to face the Brewers, one of the worst teams in baseball. They proceeded to get swept in a series that you’d normally chalk up to “can’t predict baseball”, except you kind of can predict it. For whatever reason, the Pirates just can’t win in Milwaukee, no matter how good they are, or how bad the Brewers have been.
And so the Pirates now head to St. Louis trailing the Cardinals by 6.5 games. This is the first of two series remaining between the two teams, and the Pirates are now in a situation where they could beat the Cardinals in every single game the rest of the year and still be half a game back from first place. They’ll need help from other teams, and they will have to win against teams other than St. Louis.
The odds of them winning the division now are going to be low. They already had less than a 10% chance heading into tonight, with FanGraphs giving them their best odds at 7.9%. If they want any shot, they’re going to need a huge series this weekend against the Cardinals. Anything less than a sweep and they’ve got no shot, especially with the way the Cardinals have been dominating other teams this year.
But there’s another side to this. The Pirates have a healthy lead over the Cubs at the moment. Even after this sweep, they’re leading the Cubs by 4.0 games for home field in the Wild Card game. This seems to be a two-team race, since the Cubs have a 6.5 game lead over the Giants.
Even though the Pirates have a good lead, they’re still going to have to shut the door on Chicago. The two teams play seven more times this year, and each team plays St. Louis six times. The games against Chicago will be big, but every win is important outside of those games. The Pirates need to sweep the upcoming series just to have a shot at the division. But just winning the series will give them a continued edge over the Cubs. And that’s not going to be easy with the way St. Louis has played this year.
I’ll have live coverage from all three games of this important series. I’ve got an early flight, and early pre-game work tomorrow, so I’m cutting this short tonight by skipping to the daily notes.
**Please Welcome Ed Giles to Pirates Prospects. Today I announced our newest writer, Ed Giles, who you may know as @InClementeWthr on Twitter. Ed is going to be a great addition down the stretch as we work to increase our MLB coverage for the playoff stretch.
**Prospect Watch: Altoona Debut For Tyler Eppler Doesn’t Go Well. This is all bonus time for Eppler, as he should spend most of the 2016 season at the Double-A level.
**Corey Hart Will Remain on the Disabled List For the Remainder of the Season. This looks to be the end of Hart’s time with the Pirates, and possibly the end of his career.
**Injury Update: John Holdzkom Tosses First Bullpen Session. Ryan Palencer with an update on John Holdzkom, who seems unlikely to return to the majors this year.
**Andrew McCutchen Named NL Player of the Month. Keeping this up through September and October would be outstanding.
**Meadows and Weiss Named to FSL All-Star Team. Both have since been promoted to Altoona.
**Morning Report: Keon Broxton is Close to a Significant Accomplishment. Interesting note from John Dreker, with Keon Broxton only needing one stolen base for a rare accomplishment.