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 Post subject: Whom to root for - September 1-3, 2014
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:23 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2008 2:11 pm
Posts: 5832
Location: 120 miles west of Iowa City
Trying very hard to keep the big picture in mind after yesterday's loss. Going into the last series, I thought it realistic for the Bucs to be within 3 games of first place and that the Cardinals and Brewers would be tied for first. Keeping the big picture in mind, the Bucs are actually one game better than I hoped - a mere 2 games back of the Cardinals and Brewers.

And . . . as it turns out . . . it looks like winning the division may be an easier road than hosting a first round wild card game.

This is a huge week for the Pirates as they can take care of some head-to-head business and then enjoy the Cards and Brewers throwing haymakers at one another.

As of right now, with 26 games left in the schedule, here's how the boys in black-and-gold stack up against the competition:

DIVISIONAL RACE
Winning the series with Cincinnati coupled with the Brewers getting swept and the Cardinals splitting four with the Cubs, the Divisional Race analysis remains in play . . . for now.

Brewers: The Pirates have played the same number of games as the Brewers and are trailing the Brewers by 2 games in the loss column. They have 3 head to head games remaining. To have any legitimate chance of catching the Brewers, they need to win at least 2 of the final 3. The Pirates trail the season series to the Brewers 5-11. Thus, the Brewers have clinched the advantage in any tiebreaker. A tie for the division at the end of the season would see the Bucs travel to Miller Park for a one game playoff. Winner would advance to a Divisional Playoff Series; loser will play in the Wildcard Playoff.
Cardinals: The Pirates have played the same number of games as the Cardinals and are also trailing the Cardinals by 2 games in the loss column. They have 3 head to head games left starting in about an hour and one half. Again, the Pirates must win that series to keep a division title realistically in play. The season series is tied 8-8. If the Pirates were to win their next series with St. Louis and if the two teams were to tie for the division title, the one game playoff to determine division champion would be played at PNC. The loser would play in the wildcard game.

WILDCARD RACE
Giants: The Pirates have played the same number of games as the Giants and trail the Giants in the loss column by 3 games. They have no more games against one another. The Pirates won the season series 4-2 and hold a tiebreak advantage over the Giants. If the Pirates and Giants tie for the second wildcard position, there would be a one game playoff at PNC Park to see which team advances to the wildcard game. If the Pirates and Giants were to tie for the top wildcard record, the wildcard game would be played at PNC Park.
Braves: The Pirates have played one game less than the Braves and trail the Braves in the loss column by one game. The Braves lead the season series 2-1. The Pirates would have to win 3 of the final four head-to-head games against the Braves to gain any wildcard home field advantage.
Brewers: The Pirates have played the same number of games as the Brewers and are trailing the Brewers by 2 games in the loss column. They have 3 head to head games remaining. To have any legitimate chance of catching the Brewers, they need to win at least 2 of the final 3. The Pirates trail the season series to the Brewers 5-11. Thus, the Brewers have clinched the advantage in any tiebreaker. A tie for the wildcard position at the end of the season would see the Bucs travel to Miller Park for a one game Wildcard Playoff.
Cardinals: The Pirates have played the same number of games as the Cardinals and are also trailing the Cardinals by 2 games in the loss column. They have 3 head to head games left starting in about an hour and one half. While not absolutely necessary to gain a playoff berth, winning that series would be very important to a playoff run. Taking two of three from playoff contending teams will always advance the cause. The season series is tied 8-8. If the Pirates were to win their next series with St. Louis and if the two teams were to tie for the second wildcard position, the one game playoff to determine who advances would be played at PNC. If the Pirates and Cardinals were to tie for the top wildcard record, the wildcard game would be played at PNC Park.


UPCOMING THREE DAYS:

Did any team gag as hard as the Brewers over the weekend? The Royals came close but at least their games were competitive. Perhaps playoff pressure is getting to the Brewers . . . the division title is now seriously up for grabs. They travel from San Francisco after getting curb stomped and face a Cubs team who should have taken 3 of 4 from the Cardinals over the weekend. There is a regional rivalry between these two franchises and, believe me, the Cubs would love to put a damper on the Brewers' playoff chances. The games are in Wrigley Field and will likely feature a fairly raucous anti-Milwaukee crowd. The Cubs are enthusiastic about Baez and Soler being in the lineup and they are now a potentially scary team to face. Despite their record, I'm hoping that we see the Cubs take two of three from the reeling Brewers.

The Braves, once again, took care of business against a team that they should beat in a series. Unfortunately, the situation was ripe for Stanton to hang an L on the Braves yesterday but he couldn't put the bat on the freaking ball . . . and then Casey McGehee watch 6 straight pitches while striking out looking with the bases juiced. Didn't swing once. Ridiculous.

Braves now draw the Phillies in Atlanta for a three game set. This is another one which should go the Braves' way. The Phillies are just not good and have about zero to play for. About the best thing that I can write is that Hamels will be throwing for the Phillies. Perhaps the Phillies can grab game one and then we hope for a split in the final two. I'm not hopeful . . . looking at the Braves taking this series.

I don't think that any team - in either league - did more for their playoff chances than the Giants this weekend. They swept a playoff contender and have the easiest schedule among the playoff contending teams. They play 3.5 games in Colorado over the next 3 days. They will finish a suspended game this afternoon and then play the other 3 games. The Rockies are a different team at Coors Field and maybe, just maybe, the Giants will suffer a bit of a let down. If the Pirates have any chance of catching the Giants, we're going to need bad teams to play "upset." Unfortunately, the Rockies are probably the worst team in the NL right now and maybe in all of baseball. A win of the suspended game and maybe one other is about as good as we can expect. Gotta be rooting for the guys in purple.

St. Louis was the venue where the Pirates went from realistic division contenders to a wild card team last year. This is, no doubt, a huge 3 game series. Win two of three and the Bucs are within one game of the Cards with the Cards heading to Milwaukee for a four game series. After the Cardinals series, the Bucs have a stretch of what appears - at least on paper - to be winnable series. Get past these next three games and . . . who knows?

Let's hope that the SABR-superior Bucco offense figures out a way to reverse the recent trend and put some real runs on the scoreboard over the next three games. Lance Lynn is prone to mental meltdowns if you can jump on him early and the Bucs' lineup matches up well against Shelby Miller.

Finally . . . can Jeff Locke out duel Wainwright a second time? Or . . . have the Cards' bats woken up with Molina back in the line-up?

Its going to be some nail biting baseball over the next three days. I'm realistically hoping for a series win . . . but secretly desire for the Pirates to somehow summon the team that unexpectedly swept the Cardinals in St. Louis earlier in 2013.

My "realistic" hopes for the standings on Monday morning?
Bucs within 1 of the Brewers and the Cardinals in the loss column.
Bucs within 1 game of the Giants and Braves in the loss column.

Baby steps . . . baby steps towards the playoffs.

_________________
Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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