Pirates Closing In On Cardinals

The Pirates' Gregory Polanco finished up a triple with style in last night's win over the Giants.

The Pirates’ Gregory Polanco finished up a triple with style in last night’s win over the Giants.

Things are getting more and more interesting as the St. Louis Cardinals‘ lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates has shrunk to just 3.5 games.

And National League fans living in the Midwest start to wonder about the possibility of the Chicago Cubs playing the Redbirds instead of the Bucs in the Wild Card game, which would be pretty amazing, particularly in central Illinois where allegiances to the two franchises are split more evenly.

Pittsburgh took care of the San Francisco Giants by taking 3 of 4 games against them, knocking the defending World Series champions a full 6 games back in the Wild Card race. The Pirates have now won 9 of their last 11 games and are the closest they’ve been in the division race since July 17th.

In the meantime, St. Louis somehow lost 2 of 3 against the San Diego Padres – a team that many thought looked really strong coming into the 2015 season.

I really didn’t understand the hype as they had invested in many high-priced free agents who were on the wrong side of 30 or hadn’t been particularly great for a few years.

There was a lot of fanfare surrounding Matt Kemp (age 30). He’s been pedestrian, hitting .267 with a .314 OBP and 15 HR. On the bright side, he’s been healthy for a second consecutive season. On the downside, his ability to take a walk has really nosedived and San Diego sucks all the power out of your bat, so… There’s that.

Then there’s James Shields, who is 33 years old this season. Shields is 9-5 with a 3.74 ERA which is nothing to get too excited about when you pitch half your games at PetCo Park. He’s FIP is 4.11, which helps explains why some teams may have been less than giddy about trying to acquire him at the trade deadline. Those 174 strikeouts in 158.2 innings of work are nice. Serving up 24 homers, though? Especially given your home park? Less nice.

That broke up a streak of six consecutive series victories for the Cardinals, their last loss coming when they dropped 2 of 3 against the Cincinnati Reds at the end of July.

The Cubs, meanwhile, rebounded from a 3-game losing streak and started up a new winning streak, sweeping the Atlanta Braves in a four-game series. Chicago’s offense has scored 5 or more runs in 6 straight games no, including 5 games with seven or more runs.

It’s probably a little ridiculous to consider them as contenders in the division race, but it’s worth noting that at 6.5 games games it’s the closest they’ve been since exactly two months ago.

In other big news in the NL Central, the Reds have now lost nine straight games, which pushed them into last place – a half game back of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Everybody in the division has some easier games coming up early this week, with the Cards facing the Arizona Diamondbacks (granted, they’ve won four straight and are back above .500), the Pirates facing the Miami Marlins (.403), the Cubs with a make-up game against the Cleveland Indians (.472), the Brew Crew also facing the Tribe, and the Reds matched up with the Detroit Tigers (.480).

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 78 45 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 74 48 3.5 W2
Chicago Cubs 71 51 6.5 W4
Milwaukee Brewers 53 72 26.0 L2
Cincinnati Reds 51 71 26.5 L9

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 74 48 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 71 51
San Francisco Giants 66 58 6.0
Arizona Diamondbacks 62 61 9.5
Washington Nationals 62 61 9.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

58-65 Indians Kluber (8-13, 3.52)
71-51 CUBS Lester (8-9, 3.58)
1:05 PM CT
59-64 Tigers Farmer (0-2, 8.39)
51-71 REDS Sampson (2-2, 4.43)
6:10 PM CT
74-48 PIRATES Happ (5-7, 4.42)
50-74 Marlins Koehler (8-11, 4.02)
6:10 PM CT
78-45 CARDINALS Lynn (9-8, 2.94)
62-61 Diamondbacks Ray (3-9, 3.38)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 10th 1st
Pittsburgh 4th 3rd
Chicago 6th 6th
Cincinnati 12th 11th
Milwaukee 9th 12th
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