The Pirates are a game behind the Braves, 2 1/2 games behind the Giants, 4 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, and six behind the Brewers. That means that their playoff chances are small and their shot at winning the NL Central is on life support. Really, the only way that they have any chance at all to win the NL Central would be to sweep the Brewers in Milwaukee this weekend. That feels like a tall task for a club coming off of a week’s full of incompetent losses, but Wednesday night’s comeback win coupled with the returns of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole felt invigorating. First during the Pirates’ bad start in April and May and then again during the just-concluded week-long losing streak, there were plenty of attempts to figure out exactly what was a “must-win” game for the Pirates and whether or not a must-win game could exist so early in the season. It’s clear now: the Pirates need at least two and probably three wins this weekend to stay in the NL Central race beyond August 24th. That’s it.
Jeff Locke starts for the Pirates tonight. He struggled a bit leading up to the trade deadline, but he’s been more solid in August. He was good enough to beat the Nats in his last start, had the bullpen not let him down, and besides a hiccup in Detroit, he’s seemingly got his walks back under control. The Pirates need someone (anyone!) to step up in this rotation right now other than Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, so this is a big test for Locke. He faced the Brewers once this year and pitched well, but lost 1-0 to Yovani Gallardo. I think I was seeing X-Men that day, so I don’t remember much about the game.
Speaking of Gallardo, he pitches for the Brewers tonight. He’s been on a bit of a roller coaster this year, as he can’t really strike anyone out anymore and he’s had to change his approach some. He’s been solid of late, though, allowing one run or less in four of his last five starts. Obviously the Pirates know their way around Yovani Gallardo; they’ve faced him four times this year alone.
Travis Snider is still starting over Gregory Polanco, which makes tons of sense given Polanco’s struggles and Snider’s hot bat of late. Josh Harrison is at third, Neil Walker is a second. The Pirates are more or less fully armed for this series, depending on the actual health of Andrew McCutchen. All we can do now is sit back and see what happens, I suppose.
First pitch is at 8:10.