So it has come to this. The Cardinals sit one game back of the San Francisco Giants and two game back of the New York Mets. Those rooting for chaos are currently rooting for the Cardinals so the massive three-way tie generates a hobgoblin of games before the Wild Card game can even be played. There is also still a chance that two teams could be tied, resulting in game 163 on Monday. As the Cardinals are the trailing team, they need help in addition to taking care of their own business, a task that has proved difficult. The Cardinals should destroy the Pirates.
The Cardinals enter play today with just a 30.4% chance of winning the Wild Card. In order to win it outright, the team would need to be two game better than the Giants in the last three games. One would think a sweep might get that done. Here is how the odds of the three contenders have progressed throughout the season, per Fangraphs.
If the Cardinals had won one more game at some point this season, their odds would be in significantly better shape. Their odds are also affected by playing a team in the Pirates, who are a solid team. The Pirates looked out of the race several months ago, but fought hard to get back in it during the summer. Injuries, especially to the pitching staff took their toll, and while the Pirates could finish above .500, they will not return to the playoffs this season.
The Pirates finished yesterday’s game with the Cubs in a 1-1 tie, and in a tie it will remain, which I’m sure Mike Shannon would have something to say about reagarding some of your relatives. Or maybe not. It is hard to predict exactly what Mike Shannon will say. Perhaps that isn’t true either. You can predict what Mike Shannon will say, it is the when that is difficult to decipher.
In any event, it is difficult to predict what kind of lineup a team will field when out of the race. Catcher Francisco Cervelli has been hurt, so the myth of Eric Fryer could present itself to haunt the Cardinals further. Starling Marte will not play this weekend with a back issue. Gregory Polanco is nursing a neck injury so he might or might not suit up.
Cardinals hero David Freese figures to play. The Pirates earlier called up rookie Josh Bell and the 24-year-old switch hitter has put up a good 122 wRC+ in 144 plate appearances, walking more than he has struck out. Bell is certainly a name to know for this series, as well as the future as he will likely be the Pirates Opening Day first baseman next season. With Marte out and Polanco hurt, he could see time in the outfield this series, as could Matt Joyce.
On the pitching side, the Pirates will send out promising 6’8” 23-year-old righty Tyler Glasnow. He has made just six appearances and three starts this season, but has performed well despite some poor luck. His FIP is just 3.47 while his ERA is 4.91 due to a .370 BABIP and 65.4 left-on-base percentage. None of that means a whole lot for this start, only that he is projected as a solid major league and performed as such. He strikes out a lot of batter and walks a lot as well.
Glasnow made his first big league start against the Cardinals in July, pitching into the sixth inning, giving up four runs with five strikeouts, two walks and a home run. In his last start, he went three innings, struck out five and walked jus one, but seven hits led to four runs. He throws a low- to mid-90s fastball two-thirds of the time along with a curve. Carlos Martinez will start for the Cardinals. He is awesome, and will need to be tonight.
On Saturday, Chad Kuhl is starting for Pittsburgh. Kuhl has made 13 starts for Pittsburgh and despite a lack of strikeouts, he has kept his walks and homers down enough to be adequate with a FIP and ERA in the low-fours. Kuhl features a low-90s sinker and a slider mixed in with a rare change. After a couple decent starts against the Phillies and Brewers, Kuhl got beat up against the Cubs his last time out.
Earlier this month, Kuhl lasted just two innings against the Cardinals, striking out two and walking three while giving up three runs. That was Adam Wainwright’s four-RBI game. I have it on good authority, that authority being the MLB rulebook, that someone will be starting for the Cardinals on Saturday. If Busch Stadium were a sailing ship, and said sailing ship had a deck, you would likely find all of the Cardinals hands on that same deck for this game.
On Sunday, in a game that hopefully still matters, Ryan Vogelsong will take the mound for the Pirates. You might remember Vogelsong for crushing the Cardinals dreams in previous seasons, although that Ryan Vogelsong appears to have departed at this stage in the 39-year-old’s career. The righty has been bad this year with an ERA and FIP around five. In his last six starts, he has given up under four runs just one time, against the Brewers.
Vogelsong gave up five runs in four innings against the Cardinals in early September, striking out two, walking one, and giving up two home runs. Adam Wainwright needs to pitch well or hit well, preferably both, but the former if you had to choose just one.
Hopefully this is not the last series preview of the season.
Tonight’s game is at 7:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest
Saturday’s game is at 12:05 pm CT and will air on FOX
Sunday’s game is at 2:15 pm CT (as are all MLB games on Sunday) and will air on FOX Sports Midwest