The Pirates had the day off on Thursday, but still benefitted in the Wild Card race. The Cardinals lost 8-1 to the Washington Nationals, bringing the Pirates to half a game back for the second spot. The Dodgers also lost, falling 2-0 to Arizona, and moving one game behind the Pirates.
At this point the Wild Card race looks like a three team race for the second spot, with Atlanta holding a three game lead in the first spot. The Pirates have a good chance to move back in to that second Wild Card spot this weekend. The Cardinals go up against the Nationals, playing Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Stephen Strasburg. And as if the Cardinals didn’t already have a rough series, they saw Rafael Furcal go down with an injury today, which could end his season.
By comparison, the Pirates go up against the Brewers, who didn’t have Thursday off, but instead played a four hour game, losing 12-11 in walk off fashion to the Cubs. The Pirates will have their best starters this weekend, sending Jeff Karstens, A.J. Burnett, and James McDonald. There’s a chance Karstens could miss his start, but the Pirates still have Burnett and McDonald. It’s never a guarantee against Milwaukee, especially on the road, but this is a good time to catch them with their bullpen taxed from Thursday.
The Pirates need to get to the Milwaukee starters, which is no easy task. Friday’s starter, Mark Rogers, threw five shutout innings in his start against the Pirates last week. Marco Estrada didn’t play the Pirates last week. The last time he faced them was July 14th, giving up three earned runs in 5.2 innings, so that could be an easier outing. The challenge will be Yovani Gallardo on Sunday, who always shows up with a big game against the Pirates.
They still have to play the games, so nothing is guaranteed. But on paper the Cardinals are slumping, have lost a key performer, and have a brutal three game pitching matchup this weekend. Meanwhile the Pirates go up against a team that has to be tired from yesterday’s game, with the Pirates throwing their best pitchers.That’s a favorable combination for the Pirates.
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