After what appeared to be the shaping up of a playoff-less 2016 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Pirates have finally made a push late in the season that shows some hope for yet another playoff appearance. If the Pirates can make the playoffs in 2016 it will be the fourth straight playoff appearance for the Bucs after over a two decade long win-less seasons drought.
After coming off a 3 game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, the Pirates currently sit at a record of 62-56 and have won 6 of their last 7 games, which is right behind the St. Louis Cardinals by 1 game for the last Wild Card spot in the National League playoffs. The Bucs’ sweep of the Giants also made a dent in the race for the first Wild Card spot, which gives home field advantage in the Wild Card game, where the Giants are now just 2 games ahead of the Cardinals and 3 games ahead of the Pirates.
The race for the Wild Card spot does not just end with the Cardinals, Giants, and Pirates. Right behind the Pittsburgh Pirates sits the Giancarlo Stantonless Miami Marlins. Just 4 days ago, the highest paid player in professional sports exited Miami’s game against the Chicago White Sox with a groin injury, and he has since been placed on the Disabled List and will not return until the 2017 season.
Although it will be very difficult for the Marlins to make the playoffs without Stanton, there is no way the Pirates can take them lightly when they square off with the Marlins at PNC Park in a 3 game series starting tomorrow night, Friday August 19th. First pitch will be at 7:05 pm on Friday and Saturday and at 1:35 pm on Sunday.
This series is going to mean a great deal when late September rolls around, because if there is any chance of the Marlins keeping their hopes high and making a run at the playoffs, it would all start with a series win against the Pittsburgh Pirates on their own turf.
After the Marlins visit PNC Park, the Houston Astros will be making a stop in Pittsburgh to face the Pirates in a 3 game series starting Monday, August 22nd. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Astros are going to bring their A-game with them due to their own playoff picture. The Houston Astros currently sit 5.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot in the American League playoffs.
What does all of this mean for the Pirates? This means that the Pirates have some competition on the horizon who need to win as bad, if not worse, than the Pirates do, and the competition is going to be fierce. In layman’s terms, the Pirates are going to have good competition when they need to win the most.The Pirates are going to have to bring their A-game just like their competition is going to.
After all of the money crunching and money saving by the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization at the trade deadline, it is absolutely astonishing that the Pirates have still found themselves in a playoff race in late August, especially with Andrew McCutchen’s performance this season.
‘Cutch is only hitting .248 with 17 home runs and 51 runs batted in. The real MVP of this Pirates lineup is either Starling Marte, who is hitting .312 with 7 home runs and 40 RBI’s, or Gregory Polanco, who is hitting .271, which has dropped as of late, with 17 home runs and a team leading 67 RBI’s.
The time appears to be right for the Pirates who are finally making a run. With young pitching that seems to be the future, and veteran hitting to lead the way, the Pittsburgh Pirates might just find themselves in yet another episode of October baseball, or as the people of Pittsburgh like to call it, “Buctober”.
Hunter Stiehler: GZ Sports Report Writer