In the course of about three hours this afternoon, the Pirates managed to more or less guarantee that they'll be in next Tuesday's wild card game, and prove why such a game is so terrifying.
What happened this afternoon was that the Pirates didn't hit very well (a recurring theme) and Francisco Liriano didn't quite have his best stuff. It seemed like that was going to be fine, until he hit a wall in the sixth and served up a three-run homer to Darnell McDonald. I don't think I'd say Liriano was bad, just that he wasn't quite perfect and that was enough to lose.
That's the looming horror of the wild card game, of course. There's no padding if a starter isn't quite right or a shortstop boots a ball. It's one and done, which means that not even being the best team on the field that day will guarantee a berth in the NLDS. It's really terrifying, and with the Pirates' loss this afternoon coupled with the Cardinals' win, it's almost assuredly the Pirates' future.
What's most frustrating about this loss is that the Reds also lost to the Mets this afternoon, which means that if the Pirates had found a way to beat the Cubs, they would've headed into Cincinnati this weekend with a two-game lead on the Reds for home field advantage in the wild card game. That extra game is huge, because the tiebreaker for home field is head-to-head record and the Pirates and Reds are 8-8 against each other this year. That means that even though the Pirates the have a one game lead on Cincy right now, the two teams are effectively tied for the wild card, because if Reds take two of three from the Pirates they'll host next week's game by virture of their 10-9 record against the Bucs.
Three games left. If the Pirates can win two, PNC Park will host a playoff game next Tuesday. If they can't win two, well, that won't matter if they win next Tuesday.