This past week was an important week for the Pirates. They were going up against the Cubs in a four game series, and the Dodgers in a three game series. They took on Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw. And they did all of this while starting the week 2.5 games back from St. Louis, and four games up over the Cubs. They needed a big performance last week to keep pace with St. Louis, and to maintain their lead over Chicago. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
For whatever reason, every time the Pirates get close to the Cardinals this year, they either slip, or the Cardinals move away, or both. In this case, it was a little bit of both. While the Pirates were losing three of four to the Cubs, the Cardinals were sweeping the Brewers in a three game series. And the Cardinals did lose two of three to the Cubs over the weekend, while the Pirates took two of three over the Dodgers. This didn’t make up for the games the Pirates lost to St. Louis earlier in the week, and they couldn’t gain any further ground on Chicago.
The Pirates have four games coming up against the Rockies, who are one of the worst teams in the NL. Then they play the Cubs in a three game series to wrap up the week. Meanwhile, the Cardinals get seven games at home against the Reds and Brewers.
It’s possible that St. Louis could lose some ground in the upcoming week. It was only a week ago that they lost three of four to the Reds. But the odds of that happening are slim, with Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs putting the odds of the Pirates winning the division below 10% before Sunday’s games.
At this point, the key is keeping the Wild Card game in Pittsburgh. As we saw this week, Jake Arrieta will be a tough opponent. He’s not unstoppable. The Pirates beat him once already this year, and their loss this week was a one run loss in 12 innings, which was hardly Arrieta’s doing. For the Pirates to beat Arrieta, they’ll need every advantage they can get. Having the Wild Card game in PNC Park would provide one big advantage.
Looking at the other side of this race, the Cubs have a fairly easy schedule down the stretch, outside of their series with the Pirates. They have six games against Milwaukee, three against the Reds, and a makeup game against Kansas City. The Pirates still have a three game series against the Cardinals to deal with.
To stay ahead in the Wild Card race, the Pirates need to do something this week. They need to step up in a big way against Colorado, and they need to hold Chicago back at the end of the week, taking at least two games in that series. The Cubs have already won the season series, meaning the Pirates need at least a one game lead over Chicago to host the Wild Card game. Every single win counts at this point, with the three games this weekend being huge potential wins that could ultimately decide where the Wild Card game would be played.
**Source: Pirates to Call Up Keon Broxton. Broxton is expected to join the team in Denver tomorrow. Check the article for my report on him, and his potential role with the team this September. The biggest impact? Broxton won’t be a free agent at the end of the year, and the Pirates can keep him as outfield depth next year.
**Pirates Had an Important Decision to Make With Keon Broxton. Ryan Palencer breaks down that decision for the Pirates, along with looking at how Broxton developed this season.
**We’ll be starting our individual team recaps this week, breaking down the top ten prospects at each level, along with the progress they made this season. We’ll have a few odds and ends articles tomorrow, and will start the system recaps on Tuesday.