The Final Countdown: Race for the NL Central

Pirates Postseason 2013

Believe it or not, the 2013 Pirates season is just about coming to a close. Fortunately, the postseason is in their sights for the first time since 1992.

With six games to go, the Bucs hold a magic number of two. Therefore, any of the following scenarios will get them into the playoffs:
1. 1 Pirates win, 1 Nationals loss
2. 2 Pirates wins, 0 Nationals losses
3. 0 Pirates wins, 2 Nationals losses

Considering scenario #1, the Pirates could clinch as early as Monday night.

Barring a terrible collapse and ridiculous surge by the Nationals, the Bucs have a postseason spot wrapped up. The only question is what spot they’ll fall into.

Here are the current NL Central standings:
1. St. Louis (91-65) –
2. Pittsburgh (89-67) 2.0 games back
2. Cincinnati (89-67) 2.0 games back

At this point, nothing is certain. But it’s looking like St. Louis will take the division and Pittsburgh/Cincinnati will face off in the Wild Card game. However, there’s still time to make a play for the division or at least secure home-field in the coin-flip game.

Here are the schedules for the final week for those three squads:

Monday – vs. Nationals
Tuesday – vs. Nationals
Wednesday – vs. Nationals
Thursday – off
Friday – vs. Cubs
Saturday – vs. Cubs
Sunday – vs. Cubs

Monday – @ Cubs
Tuesday – @ Cubs
Wednesday – @ Cubs
Thursday – off
Friday – @ Reds
Saturday – @ Reds
Sunday – @ Reds

Monday – vs. Mets
Tuesday – vs. Mets
Wednesday – vs. Mets
Thursday – off
Friday – vs. Pirates
Saturday – vs. Pirates
Sunday – vs. Pirates

With a two-game lead, the Cards pretty much control their own fate at the top of the division. Beat the Nats and Cubs at Busch and they’ll cruise into the NLDS, or struggle in the last six and stumble into the Wild Card game.

The big advantage the Reds have over the Pirates this week is where they’re playing. The Redlegs get to play on their home turf, where they’re 48-26 this year (substantially better than their 41-41 road record). On the flip side, the Bucs have to take their show on the road, where they’ve played 39-36 baseball this year (not nearly as good as their 50-31 home record).

Realistically, the Cubs and Mets shouldn’t be problems for the Pirates and Reds, respectively. If they can handle those clubs, they’ll be setting up an epic final weekend of the season in Cincinnati.

The Pirates have to play their best baseball this week, no excuses. Assuming they use Thursday’s off-day to their advantage and skip Jeff Locke’s next start, they’ll have their four-man playoff rotation in tact: Morton (Mon.), Cole (Tues.), Liriano (Wed.), Burnett (Fri.), Morton (Sat.), Cole (Sun.), Liriano (Tues. Wild Card). That’s a pretty good group to ride with.

Sweep Chicago (or at least two of three) then take your A-game to Cincy. It’d be much better to play the WC game at PNC Park than at Great American Ballpark. Plus, we’ve all been waiting for years to see a playoff game in Pittsburgh. Bring it home, Buccos.

This is it. Buckle up.

Go Bucs

One thought on “The Final Countdown: Race for the NL Central”

  1. Looks like Liriano may be starting the Wild Card game against the Reds – he is the best pitcher on the team, though his ERA is over 4 on the road, and didn’t do so well in his lone start in Cincinnati this season – 5 ERs in 4+ innings.

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