There’s no such thing as a small series or an unimportant game from here on out. The Giants, Braves, and Pirates have all been playing good baseball lately after all having summer swoons at various points in the last month or so, and suddenly it seems like the race for the National League wild cards could be a sprint to the finish (it might be a sprint to 85 wins, but hey …). That means that when the Pirates catch a team like the Reds that isn’t playing well, they have to capitalize with as many wins as they can get.
Edinson Volquez and Mike Leake are on the mound at PNC Park tonight. It feels like the Pirates have seen Mike Leake pitch almost as much as they’ve seen Gerrit Cole pitch this year, and the Pirates have done relatively well against him. The Pirates announced before the game that Gerrit Cole was being “demoted” to Single-A Bristol to make room for Andrew Lambo on the roster, which is really just a procedural move to create a roster spot for Lambo since Bristol’s season ends before Cole’s next start (if you’re wondering about Cole’s options: last year was his first option year, this move would make this year his second, and if for some reason they need to demote him to the minors next year, they could get a fourth option in 2016 because they would have used three options in his first five professional seasons — it seems unlikely that this will come back to bite them). This move is probably necessary due to the uncertain health of both Pedro Alvarez and Travis Snider, neither of whom are in tonight’s lineup.
Anyway, the first pitch is at 7:05. The Pirates are a full two games behind the Giants, 2 1/2 behind the Cardinals, and four behind the Brewers. Two or three wins this weekend could help shrink those gaps; the Pirates can’t do anything less than that.