The already slim playoff chances of the Pittsburgh Pirates took a hit yesterday with a loss to the Atlanta Braves. They need to make up a lot of ground with numerous teams in front of them and only 36 games left in the season. Depending on how the next ten days go, you might not see a large group of players join the Pirates right away when the rosters expand on September 1st. That’s because the top levels in the minor leagues both have an excellent chance at making the playoffs. The title I used for this article could be repeated quite a few times over the rest of the minor league season.

Indianapolis is a game ahead in their division and tonight’s game is something that you like to see for your young top prospect. Mitch Keller is starting in the opener of a three-game series at home against the second place team. Keller has pitched well in high pressure games before, either helping the playoff run or in the playoffs at Bradenton and Altoona each of the last two seasons. They play 14 games over these next 14 days and he should be making three of those starts.

Altoona actually has a better shot at the playoffs even though they are in second place right now. Their lead over the third place team is big enough that they would need to fall apart over the final two weeks to not make the playoffs. I’m sure they would like to win the division title and get home field advantage. With the Curve trailing by a 1/2 game, they could take over the division lead tonight.

What that all means is that the players would be better suited staying with their teams until the playoffs are over, unless of course, the Pirates really go on a run before September 1st. We will see Jacob Stallings on September 1st I’m sure, as a third catcher is almost always among the first players up. You will also see bullpen help, but that could come from two guys on the 60-day DL right now, AJ Schugel and Nick Burdi. Maybe someone else joins them right away for long relief like Clay Holmes or Nick Kingham, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.

Schugel seems definite, while Burdi seems very likely due to his Rule 5 status and a chance to start clicking off some of those 90 days he needs to be up in the majors. His Rule 5 status is going to carry into next year until he has 90 guys in the majors, but the Pirates can take care of 30 of them this year, even though he might only see mop-up work and sporadic use. Besides those three, you’ll probably get a middle infielder, which might just be Sean Rodriguez coming back on the 1st.

Back to the playoffs, and there are other strong postseason possibilities in the lower minors. The West Virginia Power might get in with the second best overall record this season, even though they are one of the worst teams during the second half. That’s because Lakewood looks like they are going to win both half season titles. At that point, the season records take over for the second playoff spot. We have already seen promotions to this level with Travis Swaggerty, Connor Kaiser and Luke Mangieri all added to the roster last week, so they might not get anymore help from Morgantown.

Bristol also got some reinforcements this week, although they lost Shane Baz and Sherten Apostel in trades, so part of those additions were just out of need. They have a game similar to Indianapolis in importance tonight.

Bristol has just nine games left, with the next three coming against the team they are tied with for the second playoff spot. Not only are these games important for the playoff race itself, whoever takes the series owns the tiebreaker if they finished the season tied. Winning at least two of three would actually put you up two games, because the losing team of the season series needs to finish with a better record to get in the playoffs. I talked to three of the Bristol players yesterday and all three brought up how big these games are for the team, so they know what’s going on.

The Major League playoff chances are almost gone, but the minor league season has four close playoff races to watch over the final two weeks.

** Jonah Davis was named as the Appalachian League Player of the Week on Monday afternoon. He had nine hits last week and they all went for extra bases. Davis was our Player of the Week in The 21 yesterday.

PLAYOFF PUSH

The Pirates are in fourth place in their division, trailing by 9.5 games with 36 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by six games.

Indianapolis is a game ahead of first place with 14 games left in their schedule.

Altoona is in second place and trails by a 1/2 game with 15 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by 5.5 games.

Bradenton is in sixth place and trails by 14 games with 14 games left in their schedule.

West Virginia is in fourth place and trails by 10.5 games with 15 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team in the overall standings by two games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and the Power finishes second.

Morgantown is in sixth place and they trail by 11 games with 14 games left in their schedule.

Bristol is in third place and trails by 3.5 games with nine games left in their schedule. They are tied for second place with tonight’s opponent. The second place team also gets a playoff spot.

The GCL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoff race.

The DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoff race.

The DSL Pirates2 have been eliminated from the playoff race.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 1-0 to the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. Ivan Nova will get the start today, coming off of his outing on August 16th when he gave up one run over 6.2 innings against the Chicago Cubs. The Braves will counter with right-hander Kevin Gausman, who has a 4.22 ERA in 143 innings, with 116 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP. He has allowed three earned runs over 14 innings in his last two starts combined. Gausman was originally scheduled to start yesterday, but got pushed back a day.

The minor league schedule includes Mitch Keller trying to build on his last two starts. After posting a 7.99 ERA in his first five starts in Triple-A, Keller has allowed three runs over 12 innings in his last two starts combined. Altoona’s Eduardo Vera has thrown 134.1 innings this season, fourth most in the farm system and just 2.2 IP out of second place. Domingo Robles makes his second start for Bradenton. He threw seven shutout innings in his last game, after giving up nine runs over 3.1 innings in his High-A debut. The GCL Pirates need to complete a suspended game before playing their regularly scheduled game today. The GCL/DSL seasons wrap up on Saturday.

MLB: Pittsburgh (63-63) vs Braves (69-55) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (4.26 ERA, 91:27 SO/BB, 131.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (68-58) vs Columbus (67-59) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (6.06 ERA, 43:16 SO/BB, 35.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (67-55) @ Binghamton (59-66) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (4.48 ERA, 46:18 SO/BB, 76.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (53-65) vs Charlotte (67-55) 6:30 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (7.84 ERA, 7:4 SO/BB, 10.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (63-57) vs Charleston (57-65) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Hunter Stratton (4.57 ERA, 70:44 SO/BB, 84.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (24-38) vs Batavia (28-33) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike LoPresti (5.77 ERA, 16:14 SO/BB, 39.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (28-30) @ Kingsport (29-30) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (24-23) vs Yankees West 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (31-36) vs Indians/Brewers 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (25-42) vs Royals2 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis, Jose Osuna broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning (extra innings in a doubleheader). Indianapolis went on to win 5-1.

and here is Jacob Stallings, making a little bit better contact

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

8/20: Mariano Dotel, Braham Rosario and Jose Maldonado promoted from DSL to GCL Pirates. Yerry De Los Santos and Lizardy Dicent promoted from the GCL to Bristol.

8/20: Travis MacGregor placed on disabled list. Logan Stoelke promoted to West Virginia.

8/20: Pirates recall Steven Brault. Option Buddy Boshers to Indianapolis.

8/19: Bligh Madris activated from Bradenton disabled list. Justin Harrer returned to GCL Pirates

8/18: Stephen Alemais activated from the disabled list. Logan Ratledge placed on Altoona disabled list.

8/18: Manny Bejerano promoted to Morgantown.

8/18: Pat Dorrian promoted  to Bristol.

8/17: Pirates sign Carlos Canache.

8/17: Sherten Apostel sent to Texas Rangers as the PTBNL in the Keone Kela trade.

8/16: Pirates recall Kevin Newman and Jordan Luplow. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

8/16: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list.

8/16: Casey Sadler designated for assignment.

8/16: Brad Case promoted to Bristol.

8/15: Travis Swaggerty, Luke Mangieri and Connor Kaiser promoted to West Virginia.

8/15: Dylan Busby activated from West Virginia disabled list. Oneil Cruz placed on disabled list.

8/15: Montana DuRapau placed on disabled list.

8/15: Nick Burdi assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/14: Pirates sign Johan Montero.

8/14: West Virginia assigns Ben Bengtson, Fabricio Macias and Kyle Watson to Morgantown.

8/14: Bligh Madris placed on disabled list. Justin Harrer promoted to Bradenton.

8/14: Shane Baz traded as the player to be named later to the Rays.

8/13: AJ Schugel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/13: Jackson Williams activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

8/12: Miami Marlins acquire Christopher Bostick for cash.

8/12: Pirates recall Jacob Stallings. Option Jordan Luplow.

8/12: Stephen Alemais placed on the DL. Jin-De Jhang added to Altoona roster.

8/11: Pirates recall Michael Feliz and Buddy Boshers. Clay Holmes and Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

8/11: Jin-De Jhang placed on temporary inactive list.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the Major League single-season leader for triples.

Chief Wilson was in his second season in the majors when he played on the 1909 World Series team. He hit .272 that year and played 154 games. By 1911, he hit .300 and drove in 107 runs. The next year, he clubbed 36 triples, setting an MLB record that still stands and hasn’t even been approached since, with 26 being the highest total since then. Wilson stayed around Pittsburgh until 1913 when he was part of the inexcusable Dots Miller trade to the Cardinals. Wilson had a rifle for an arm, picking up 181 assists in his nine-year career.

Jeff Clement, first baseman in 2010 and 2012. Came over from the Mariners in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade.

Jesse Chavez, reliever for the 2008-09 Pirates. Came over from the Rangers in a deal for Kip Wells.

Ramon Vazquez, 2009 infielder. Signed a two-year deal, but ended up lasting just one season.

Lou Collier, shortstop for the 1997-98 Pirates. Hit .246 in 110 games during the 1998 season.

Murry Dickson, pitcher from 1949 until 1953. Pirates purchased him from the Cardinals for $125,000. Won 20 games for the 1951 Pirates. Finished 66-85, 3.83 in 137 starts and 91 relief appearances during his five seasons in Pittsburgh, playing mostly for last place teams.

Cobe Jones, shortstop for the 1928-29 Pirates. Played the last game of the 1928 season and 25 games the next year.

Jim Mosolf, outfielder for the 1929-31 Pirates. Batted .462 during September of 1929. Played 40 games during the 1930 season, just six as a starter. Mosolf played even less often in 1931, with 39 games total and four starts all season.

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