2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Wild Card Game Live Blog

PITTSBURGH — The Wild Card game is about an hour away, and we’ve got live coverage from the event. Sean McCool and I will be covering things from the press box at PNC Park, while David Hague is down at the field level shooting photos. You can follow the action all night and comment on the game in this thread, and we will keep it updated with big events, thoughts, and analysis of everything that takes place.

If you missed it earlier, here was our preview of tonight’s game, looking at how the Pirates can beat Jake Arrieta and how Gerrit Cole can beat the Cubs lineup. The Pirates released their lineup with Sean Rodriguez at first base over Pedro Alvarez, and we broke down that decision here. You can also check out yesterday’s analysis here:

**First Pitch: NL Wild Card Game Shaping Up Like a Hollywood Movie For the Pirates

**Forget Jake Arrieta — Gerrit Cole Could Be This Year’s Madison Bumgarner

**Jake Arrieta Doesn’t Think PNC Park’s Atmosphere Will Impact His Performance

FanGraphs gave their odds, with the Pirates holding a slight edge, but with the game essentially being a coin flip.

FanGraphs also broke down the home plate umpire tonight, Jeff Nelson, and his tendency calling balls and strikes. To quote their summary:

Overall, though, it’s the inside strike to lefties that stands out as his most notable trait. Given that the Cubs are likely to start five left-handed hitters tonight, they’re the ones who will have to be more likely to make some adjustments; especially because the Pirates pitch inside more than almost any other team in MLB. Nelson’s generous inside corner is likely a potential benefit for Gerrit Cole in going after guys like Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan, who tend to take a lot of borderline pitches, and might need to be more aggressive on the inner-half tonight.

Last night, Dallas Keuchel benefitted from a low strike zone. We’ll see if Gerrit Cole can do the same tonight. For the record, here are his tendencies against left-handed hitters this year:


Cole does like to hit that low, inside corner, and that could be a favorable spot tonight.

We’ll have more updates throughout the evening, as pre-game announcements begin and as more information comes out. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 7:22 PM: If, for some reason, you aren’t already pumped up for the game, then Benstonium has the video for you. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 7:36 PM: A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how Gregory Polanco could be a key to beating Jake Arrieta. Daren Willman has an interesting note to add to Polanco playing an impact:

The key focus of my article was that Polanco has shown a tendency to draw a lot of pitches out of a top of the rotation starter, including Arrieta. After I wrote that article, Polanco was the only player who recorded a hit off the Cubs’ ace. He’s batting leadoff tonight. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 7:44 PM: A lot of boos when Chris Couglan was introduced. Even more for Joe Maddon. But Jake Arrieta got the most. – Tim Williams

Just a few quick pre-game notes about Gerrit Cole going into this game…

In his last start against the Cubs on 9/25, Cole changed his breakdown of pitches thrown considerably, throwing 75.2% fastballs and only 5.5% curveballs, compared to 67.1% fastballs and 8% curveballs throughout the season. In that game, Cole went 7 IP, only allowing one earned run.

That changed considerably from his previous start against the Cubs, where he threw 61.9% fastballs and 13.3% curveballs. He went 6.1 IP, allowing three earned runs in that start. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 7:50 PM: I’ll have more player intros in a bit, but here is the start of the introductions. – Tim Williams


UPDATE 8:03 PM: Andrew McCutchen’s mother, Petrina McCutchen, may have single-handedly got this place rocking and ready with her rendition of the National Anthem. The Pirates were obviously trying to bring back all the feels from the 2013 Wild Card game. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 8:05 PM: Bob Walk, current Pirates broadcaster, went 82-61 with a 3.83 ERA from 1984-1993 for the Pirates. I don’t think he threw a strike for the first pitch, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 8:06 PM: Here are a few of the intros. – Tim Williams





UPDATE 8:11 PM: Gerrit Cole gave up a single to Dexter Fowler, who then stole second base. The throw was in time, but Josh Harrison couldn’t come up with the catch and tag. Fowler then came around to score on a single by Kyle Scwarber. The Cubs take a 1-0 lead. – Tim Williams


UPDATE 8:17 PM: Joe Maddon said that he started Schwarber in right field with a focus on offense, rather than defense. It paid off in the second at-bat of the game. We’ll see how the plan goes defensively, as the current Cubs outfield features Schwarber and Bryant at the corners. Cole followed the RBI single with a grounder to third, generating a 5-4-3 double play to clear the bases. He then got a grounder by Rizzo into the shift, but Walker’s throw from the outfield was in the dirt and Sean Rodriguez couldn’t come up with it. Walker was charged with an error. Cole then struck out La Stella to end the inning. Hopefully this is a sign that Cole is getting back on track after a rough start. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 8:24 PM: Gerrit Cole has Starling Marte to thank for the score not being 2-0, as he got to Schwarber’s hit very quickly and held him to a single rather than a double. Against most other left fielders, that is easily a double, and he would’ve came around to score on the error. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 8:29 PM: Andrew McCutchen got the lone hit of the bottom of the first, with a 103 MPH single up the middle. Arrieta struggles vs the run game, but that doesn’t matter much with McCutchen on the bases. His stolen base attempts have steadily declined the last two years, reaching an all-time low this year.

2010 – 43

2011 – 33

2012 – 32

2013 – 37

2014 – 21

2015 – 16

It didn’t matter, as Starling Marte struck out to end the inning. Arrieta needed just 14 pitches in the first, with three balls. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 8:35 PM: A much better inning from Cole there, highlighted by a short chopper from Starlin Castro that featured Cole covering a lot of ground, grabbing the ball up in the air near the third base line, then turning and firing a perfect strike to a fully extended Sean Rodriguez to barely get the runner. Cole needed just 12 pitches to get through the inning in order. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 8:44 PM: Arrieta puts the Pirates down in order in the second. One of those was a strikeout against Neil Walker. He swung at pitches two and four in the chart below, which wasn’t the best pitch selection, although it could be chalked up to how difficult Arrieta is to hit and how nasty his stuff is. – Tim Williams

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.44.03 PM

Cervelli and Walker both called timeout very late once in their at-bats, seemingly to try to throw Arrieta out of his rhythm. It didn’t work either time, but I think that they need to continue to try to do anything to get Arrieta off of his game. He hasn’t necessarily hit all of his spots so far, and the Pirates may need to do anything they possibly can to look for a miss anywhere near the middle of the plate. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 8:51 PM: Shades of the first inning here in the third, as Dexter Fowler gets a one out single off Cole, and Kyle Schwarber blasts a two run homer to make it 3-0 Cubs. In each case, Cole got behind in the count early, going 2-1 to each hitter before giving up a hit. It looks like Joe Maddon’s approach of going for offense early has worked so far. – Tim Williams

Cubs 3, Pirates 0

UPDATE 8:53 PM: Arrieta has thrown a first pitch strike against six of the seven batters he has faced. Pirates may need to start taking a look at swinging first pitch more often as the game continues. – Sean McCool

On that same note, I’ll link to Ed Giles’ article from earlier this week, looking at how the Pirates have been aggressive all season swinging at the first pitch. They could use the numbers in that article tonight. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 8:58 PM: Pedro Alvarez is in the game, pinch hitting for Sean Rodriguez. Pirates making the switch to go for offense, and they need it. To recap, they traded zero at-bats for three innings of defense. I wonder if Hurdle intended to make the switch this early? – Tim Williams

UPDATE 9:00 PM: And Pedro strikes out on five pitches, swinging at all three strikes, with none in the strike zone. – Tim Williams

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.00.36 PM

UPDATE 9:08 PM: There have been complaints about the umpire calling a large strike zone for Arrieta, but going through Gameday, I haven’t seen it. There are maybe 2-3 calls that were on the edge, and most of them are high strikes to right-handers, which matches up for this umpire’s trends. I haven’t noticed Cole getting called much different. In fact, I’ve noticed a few strikes that he got that were the same borderline calls high in the zone. While it would be nice to chalk this up to the umpire calling a bad strike zone, I think it can just be chalked up to Arrieta hitting his spots, and Cole missing his. We’re currently going to the bottom of the 4th with the Pirates down 3-0. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 9:17 PM: Through four innings, Cole has thrown a first pitch strike to 10 out of 17 batters he faced. He has only been able to retire a batter in three pitches or less a total of five times through four innings. Of course, the Pirates utilize this metric heavily, and 5-out-of-17 is not quite the ratio they are looking for. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 9:21 PM: Just to follow up on the umpire calling the same game, here are two images from the 4th inning with the first pitch being called a strike, once for each pitcher.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.15.00 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.15.07 PM

It’s also worth noting that this all comes down to perspective. I’ve noticed the TBS strike zone is smaller than the MLB Gameday strike zone, which means pitches on the edge in these images are probably appearing further outside. And the new Gameday has these pitches even closer inside the zone. This is only one example, but it’s been like this all throughout the game, with both sides getting the same calls. The umpire is calling that outside strike to right-handers, and up at the top of the zone to right-handers.

Gerrit Cole gives up a solo homer in the fifth inning to Dexter Fowler — who else? — and it’s now 4-0. Heading to the bottom of the 5th. – Tim Williams

Cubs 4, Pirates 0

UPDATE 9:30 PM: Dexter Fowler & Kyle Schwarber are 5-for-6 with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs against Gerrit Cole. The rest of the Cubs are 1-for-14. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 9:41 PM: Further analysis of the strike zone. Jordy Mercer and Pedro Alvarez called out on pitches way outside on the TBS strike zone. Here were the Gameday locations.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.34.15 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.31.33 PM

My summary is that the TBS strike zone is probably not accurate. The umpire is giving benefit of doubt on edges to both sides. Arrieta is hitting them. Cole isn’t. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 9:53 PM: Travis Snider led off the sixth with a 101 MPH single up the middle. Gregory Polanco followed with some tough luck, blasting a 107 MPH liner right into Kris Bryant’s glove. Josh Harrison was hit with a pitch as Arrieta continued losing control. After a 2-0 count, McCutchen grounded up the middle and the shortstop couldn’t come up with it, loading the bases. Arrieta’s first pitch to Marte was bounced a foot in front of the plate. This crowd got loud, but Arrieta got Marte to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the frame. It’s hard to imagine the Pirates will get a better opportunity than that. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 9:58 PM: A summary of the type of night it’s been for the Pirates: Polanco’s line out was 107 MPH. Marte’s double play was 109 MPH. Those were the two hardest hit balls off Arrieta tonight, and they led to the only three outs that inning. Really tough break for the Pirates that they both were hit to fielders. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 10:01 PM: Gregory Polanco’s line drive out had an exit speed of 107 MPH. You simply cannot underestimate the magnitude of the “look-what-I-found” play that Bryant made on Polanco there. – Sean McCool

UPDATE 10:02 PM: Crazy stat that inning:

Jake Arrieta just got plunked by Tony Watson with the first pitch and the benches clear. Crowd going nuts. Tony Watson just became a Pittsburgh legend. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 10:09 PM: Arrieta stole second uncontested on Watson’s first pitch. He must have read my analysis about how the Pirates don’t really care about the running game with two outs. Watson gets the third out when Polanco ranges far for a catch. – Tim Williams

All four balls that the Pirates put into play last inning had an exit velocity over 100 MPH, including both ground balls by McCutchen and Marte. Arrieta may have escaped the inning, but you have to wonder if the Pirates have found a way to attack him, coupled with some loss of command. They’ll have three more attempts for us to find out… – Sean McCool

UPDATE 10:14 PM: Sean Rodriguez was ejected from the game during the brawl. His reaction:

Meanwhile, Arrieta gave up a single to Cervelli to start the seventh, and has had shaky control to Neil Walker, going 2-1 and prompting a visit to the mound. It might have been a mistake to bring him back out after he was getting hit hard last inning. He battled back and struck out Walker after the mound visit. Aramis Ramirez now pinch hitting for Jordy Mercer. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 10:19 PM: Aramis Ramirez grounds into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. 93 MPH exit velocity. He stays in at third, with Josh Harrison moving to shortstop and Joakim Soria coming on to pitch. That may have been the final at-bat of Ramirez’s career. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 10:24 PM: The attendance is 40,889, which is the largest crowd to see a baseball game at PNC Park. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 10:32 PM: The bullpen has done an excellent job tonight. Three shutout innings from Bastardo, Watson, and Soria. Six strikeouts, one walk, no hits. Heading to the bottom of the 8th with the score still 4-0 Cubs. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 10:39 PM: Summary of the night for Cole:

Wild Card - Cole Line

UPDATE 10:50 PM: The top of the ninth ends when Starling Marte throws out Addison Russell at second base. You don’t run on Marte. While we’re on the subject, here’s my article from last week on what makes Marte and Polanco so good at throwing out runners. Probably my last chance to tweet it out this year. I really liked that one. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 11:01 PM: Cubs win 4-0. The Pirates had an amazing 98 win season that was ended with a disappointing one game playoff in a system that probably needs to change this off-season. Sean and I will have more analysis later after getting interviews in the clubhouse. For now, here is a very rough concept of the 2016 Prospect Guide cover. It’s NOT the final cover at all, but it’s something I feel Pirates fans need right now.


Thanks for a great season, everyone! We’ll have plenty of analysis from this game later. – Tim Williams

  • Everyone, NMR, Luke, and the rest…thanks for a WONDERFUL year. It’s always a pleasure to be here with yall. Even when we disagree etc, it’s always a pleasure to be here with each and every one of yall…Thanks for a great year and we will get to do it all again starting after the WS. Looking forward to it yall!

    • After the World Series? I plan on continuing covering everything Pirates-related after my flight tomorrow. I’m hoping all of the great commenters on the site will join me.

      Outstanding discussions this year, everyone!

      • Haha, yes, you still have to work haha! I really hope we keep Happ, find another pitching gem we can polish and make like new, and finally figure out our 1B situation. It will be a very interesting offseason for the club with lots of potential changes. Who stays from the bullpen? What happens with Walker and Alvarez? Lots of big topics…will be interesting for sure.

  • Someone forgot to tell Arrieta he is beatable.

  • Not really pertinent but Alvarez is a lot like Dick Stuart, Dr. Strangeglove.

  • Unbelievable. Last 2 innings Polanco and Ramirez tatoo balls to third and it results in 3 total outs. That’s the short term example of why I’m saying you don’t evaluate the entire season on one game. Were those bad ABs because they didn’t get on base?

    • This is what October baseball is all about though man…you don’t get a trophy for the regular season.

      • I’d say maybe they should but we wouldn’t have won that either haha

        • Lol…no, no we wouldn’t have.

          Sorry man, but watching this for a 2nd year in a row is really, really tough…makes you really have to think about how to get to the next step…the Cubs and Cards will both better (Cards healthier at least)…what is the Pirates move?

      • Yeah and that’s where the rational, robot part of my brain gets very pissed off. Doesn’t feel like execution or talent has much to do with us not scoring a run or more in the last couple innings.

        • We aren’t the right team to beat Arrieta. Not enough OBP guys.

          • See I think we could’ve had him tonight for sure. Cole could’ve done better and we should’ve put runs on the board for sure in the last two innings. I know the response to that is “coulda, shoulda, woulda” but the fact is that nobody preforms exactly to expectations every singe time they do something and a million tiny factors you can’t control play a part in sports, and life in general.

  • Arrieta is showing a weakness for the first time in a while. My prediction is the Cards will beat him. That’s one start too late for us.

  • Gonna be an interesting season series next year, eh?

  • Arrieta is a bleeding vagina…are you for real? You hit two of our guys and you wore one the HIP…go to first and STFU

  • Actually glad that Pirates are showing some fight.

  • Wow! The Cubs actually had the baseball gods on their side that inning.

  • I will say one thing…props to the crowd. Staying in this wayyyy more than last yr.

  • Really? Right at Bryant huh?

  • For the second straight year I’ll say the same thing…can this please reinforce the idea of how important the ENTIRE regular season and WINNING the division is?

    • That’s what we are up against…the Cubs will get better and so will Cards, they’ll be healthy, what can we do to take the next step? Big question to be answered.

      • We will be better too.

      • Well they’re not both garaunteed to get better, I mean if I told you Bryce Harper would win MVP and Scherzer would be totally dominant there’s no way you’d have picked the Mets to win that division. But yes, we have a very tough road ahead in division. I do happen to think that we have the potential to get a lot better over the next few yrs too with the prospects we have and the possibility of current players developing further.

        • I think we will have to get creative to bridge the gap and add talent. It might be through trades (Walker or Pedro or both)…but I think we need to keep Happ…need to improve over Morton and Locke…and need stability at 1B. Oh…and I’d really love an OBP man besides Cutch and Cervelli. We will also have to maintain a bullpen. Out of the 3…I think we are in the worst position. Cubs have huge money and a ton of young talent…MLB ready talent.

          • I would probably agree that we are 3rd in that pecking order going forward but like I said, who knows what will happen. Again, nobody would’ve said the Nationals had a team that would go .500 this yr but that’s basically what they did, right?

            Also, the Cards have to have that horseshoe fall out of their ass at some point right? Please tell me they do…

  • Arrieta looking human. Need to take advantage.

  • And the umpire is giving Arrieta plenty of help…but at least Arrieta has earned it.

  • You win 98 games, 2nd best record in baseball. You wind up playing for 1 game. This is not indicative of how good the Pirates are or Clint Hurdle. This is a flaw in the playoff system.

    • Flaw of a playoff system or not…win the game. You don’t see the Cubs and all their rookies flinching now do you?

    • Most reasonable thing on here all night. Unfortunately this play in game does not go well with reason.

      • Don’t blame the system for the failure of the team to show up. That’s reasonable?!

        • No, judging a team on 162 games compared to 1 would be pretty reasonable in my eyes.

          • Oh judging them? Ok sure…the team was the 2nd best regular season team…doesn’t help us tonight man.

            • Nope it doesn’t. But I’m not gonna judge an entire season off of one game either.

              • Our season will be over…I find that significant.

                • Never said it was insignificant. Just not the only thing to base a judgement on. Are you worried about Cole next year cause he was bad tonight? No, cause that would be silly, right?

                  • But this is 2 consecutive years (with some questionable decisions along the way)…AND if you want to win a WS you have to take this seriously and try to figure out what it will take to take the next step and go deep. We need to maintain pitching, improve defense, and get someone we can really trust at 1B…maybe the Korean guy, Park?

                    • I doubt they’ll do anything at 1st with Bell on the way up. I don’t know if I can take another year of Pedro’s defensive struggles though.

                    • But, like Cutch said in the offseason, we need some stability there. Maybe we just give Bell the keys to the car and tell him to drive from day 1…but you need some stability (also bell is bad defensively )

                    • I know but he can’t be as bad as Pedro. (Says the guy who thought Pedro couldn’t be as bad defensively this yr as last yr)

  • Yes he is but that doesn’t make my statement untrue

    • It just made it seem like their whole team is raking and we are kicking the ball around the field. Whats happening is their ace is preforming and ours has got crushed by 2 guys. All semantics I guess though…this sucks

      • Point taken
        they (two players) are crushing the ball and we have done very very little

  • They are crushing the ball and we look like we’ve never played the game before

    • They have 2 players who have done anything and Arietta is doing what he’s done to everyone and what everyone expected him to.

      • Who in this universe didn’t expect that? When he’s not hitting his spots…move on…it’s do or die…don’t need to save the pen.

  • Hey Clint…NEWS FLASH: Cole doesn’t have it tonight…maybe you can pull him? You managerial dimwit

  • Cole has let us down

  • Cole is letting us down and the batters all look shellshocked

  • Let’s see…1st pitch strikes and then nothing else hittable….maybe we should swing 1st pitch?

    This team looks dead…and, honestly, terrible.

  • Imagine that…Maddon out managing Hurdle…would’ve never guessed.

    • I mean, I don’t really see how that’s been the problem here….

      • Maddon goes for offense and gets the offense…we go for defense and are getting blown away. Who’s strategy appears more sound? Hurdle was the ONLY person not to realize that we would need to score.

        • The only real “go for defense move” to me was Rodriguez over Pedro and SRod never even hit. So I don’t see how it made a difference anyways.

          Unless Hurdle positioned someone on a boat in the river there’s not much he could’ve done about that blast.

          • Honestly, I’m not objective when it comes to Clint. I absolutely hate him as a manager. Keep him as an inspirational leader or something but he’s a terrible manager…like Cole should’ve been out already..he hasn’t hit a spot ALL night. We need to leave NO stone unturned to win…continuing to trot out an ineffective Cole is pointless.

            • The Hurdle hate is just unreasonable to me, but to each his own.

              • I have a whole Long laundry list of issues with Clint. He’s not a great in-game manager. Not at all.

                • I have problems with him too, but the idea of him holding them back so much when they still won 98 games just seems unlikely to me.

                  • I don’t know about that man. Like tonight I see him over managing. Let the players play…put the best players out there and let them play. I just find him maddening and i cant stand him, that is just my honest opinion.

                    • You’re certainly not the only one I know

                    • Like I said…a whole laundry list man. The SROD at SS move cost us a game and was idiotic. I have plenty more…I just want a manager who gets out of the players way.

                  • Let me put it this way…I wouldve pulled Cole in the top of the 3rd…when he wasn’t hitting his spots and gave up the hit to Fowler. We have the pitching depth, no reason to save the arms. I would’ve also sent out a different lineup to start the game…Cole even said he liked Pedro in the lineup

                    • I’m certainly in agreement about Pedro, I said on another thread it was terrible as soon as it was posted. It’s had zero impact on this game though imo.

                    • I don’t know if I agree with that…the strategy of “defense and run prevention” may well have pushes cole to try to be fine…but who cares? He couldn’t find the strike zone with GPS…

                      I tell you, I’m much, much less worried if Maddon were our manager. Just being honest.

                    • Glad your not the manager. Pulling Cole in the third would define over managing. The reality is Cole needed to pitcher better end of story and he didn’t. You can’t panic everytime your ace pitcher throws a couple of bad pitches. Heck If I would complain about anything it would be Cole being replaced by Bastardo when he was leading off the next inning. Seems like all managers over manage. Maddon was over managing when he started Tommy Lastella over Solar. That guys stinks out loud at hitting and fielding over.

  • That’s game…good night Buccos. Cole is missing bad.

  • Cole is missing his spots still badly…by feet not inches. We need him to be dominant here on out.

  • Sorry… Pedro not playing is a bad move. You have to dance with the girl you brung. SRod is a sub and not core. Hurdle over coached this one. Hope it plays and i have to eat my hat.

  • Scott Kliesen
    October 7, 2015 8:26 pm

    Cutch missed a hanger and hit the good curve. Go figure.

  • Incredible pick by Gold Glove there…glad we started him.

  • How the hell are there so many Cubs fans there?

    • Bc the Pirates instituted the most idiotic system for determining who could buy tickets so robo/dealers bought the majority

  • Shit

  • Hell yeah man I was totally wishing for a live thread tonight!

    • Why disqus changed my profile to my steelers depot screenname I do not understand tho….

  • Gut tells me Polanco is going to have a big night…or maybe it’s just hope/wishes