After tomorrow’s AL wild card game there’s still one more wild card game before the playoffs really start. The National league wild card games pits a pair of division rivals, the Cubs and Pirates, in a win or go home game in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64)
Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.6 ERA)
Chicago Cubs (97-65)
Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA)
The Pirates won 98 games this year and after a slow start to this season, they were maybe the most impressive team in the league. After starting the year 18-22 the Pirates went 80-42 the rest of the way (a 107 win pace). Pittsburgh is led by perennial MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, who had another great but under the radar season, but the strength of the team is their pitching. They were second in team ERA behind the Cardinals and they will have the ace of the staff out on the mound Wednesday.
Offensively, this team isn’t very strong outside of the aforementioned McCutchen. Their second best player this year was rookie Jung Ho Kang who will miss the playoffs after being injured on a dirty play by their playoff opponent. They got a nice season from catcher Francisco Cervelli but he’s been a backup his whole career before this season. The Pirates have some other decent hitters but their lineup as whole is not very intimidating.
The Cubs have more star power on offense but the Pirates actually scored more runs this year. Even with great contributions from rookies Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber, these offenses are evenly matched.
Pitching for the Cubs is Jake Arrieta. If you haven’t been paying attention to baseball these last few months then you might not realize how bad that is for the Pirates. Arrieta had a very good season last year for the Cubs and started this year with more of the same. Since the All-Star break he’s been ridiculous though. In 15 starts he’s 21-1 with a 0.74 ERA. That’s a zero before the 74. He’s on one of the best pitching runs of all time and he should continue that run on Wednesday.