The Pittsburgh Pirates won today, putting them half a game up for the second Wild Card spot. Earlier this week I wrote about how the Pirates aren’t out of the playoffs, although they’re probably confined to the second Wild Card spot, and not in a good position to make a long run. In the playoff odds series, I looked at how they were still in this, thanks to a weak second Wild Card race. They are now leading that race.
So now the question has to be asked: can the Pirates do more? Is it possible for them to win home field in the Wild Card game, or even win the division?
The benefit they have is an easy schedule over the next few weeks. This week they take on Philadelphia and the Cubs once again. Then they’ve got three games against the Red Sox at home, wrapping up the easy part of their schedule. That is followed by three games at home against the Brewers and four games on the road against the Braves — the two teams who are competing with the Pirates for the final Wild Card spot. They finish their season with a three game series against the struggling Reds.
The Pirates definitely have the schedule needed to make the post-season. They have three last place teams, a struggling team, and the two teams they need to beat to get in the post-season. There is no better “ball in your court” scenario than that.
The problem is that the Cardinals have a 4.5 game lead in the NL Central, and the Giants have a 3.5 game lead for the top Wild Card spot. Both of those would be hard to come back against in less than a month.
St. Louis just helped the Pirates out by taking three of four against the Brewers, but maintained their lead in the division in the process. It doesn’t get any more difficult for the Cardinals down the stretch. They have seven games against the Reds, three each against the Rockies, Cubs, and Diamondbacks, and three at home against the Brewers. If you’re going to expect the Pirates to pile up some wins against their easy schedule, then you’d have to expect the same for St. Louis.
It’s slightly more difficult for the Giants. They have six games against the Diamondbacks, and seven games against a Padres team that they’ve been .500 against. They also have six games against the Dodgers. Because of that schedule, I’d say it would be easier for the Pirates to take the top Wild Card spot than the division.
Last year the Pirates looked like one of the best all around teams in the league. This year they’re not in that category, but they’re definitely a good team that can be considered a contender. A team like that should make the playoffs at least with the schedule they have coming up. The most likely scenario would be the second Wild Card spot if they do capitalize on this schedule, but with some help from the Dodgers and Padres, I could see the Pirates having an outside shot at home field in the Wild Card game once again.
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