NL Wild Card

It’s an absolute shame someone has to lose this game. Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs have had equally outstanding seasons. They possess the second and third best records not just in their division, but in all of baseball, at 98 and 97 wins for the former and the latter.

This game could very well come down to a battle of the bullpens, simply because the two starters do not give up runs. Period. This isn’t to take away from either teams’ lineup, who each possess several all star caliber players. However, the one constant about playoff baseball that seems to ring true every year: pitching wins championships.

We’ll start with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. His 1.77 ERA ranks second in the NL, but it’s his 0.75 second half ERA that stands out. During the live ball era, that’s the lowest in history. He led the league with four complete games and three shutouts, capped by a  no hitter in Los Angeles earlier this summer. Stats set aside, he’s been nearly untouchable and should give the Cubs confidence heading into what’s sure to be a hostile PNC Park.

Arrieta will be opposed by Pirates righty Gerrit Cole.  The 25 year old Cole struck out over 200, held a 2.60 ERA and made his first all star team. Like Arrieta, stats don’t tell the story with Cole. On the mound, he’s a bulldog. He threw over 200 innings this year, so he should have no problem matching Arrieta late in the game. His high 90s fastball, sharp secondary pitches, and 6’4 frame make him an intimidating figure. He’s an ace in every sense of the word, and a good reason why we should see very few runs this game.

This could be one of the best Wild Card games we ever see, and a good reason why we may see three game sets down the road, instead of just one. For now, we’ll live with an aces duel in Pittsburgh.

The lineups should get more love because they both have depth and talent. Pirates stars Andrew Mccutchen and Starling Marte pack a dynamic speed/power punch in the middle of the lineup. Cubs sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant form one of the best young lefty/righty duos in the game. The list goes one with the talent both these clubs possess, but it will be all about the aces Wednesday night. The X-factor, however, will be the Pirates bullpen, whose major league leading 2.67 ERA was best in the bigs. If this game goes to extras, count on the Bucs’ bullpen to get it done.

The Pirates are in the postseason for the third straight season. They’re no longer satisfied with just getting there. The Cubs are making their first appearance in what surely will be many more to come in the near future. However, this Pittsburgh team seems like a team of destiny.

Final Score: Pirates 2, Cubs 1