With just three games to play the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are separated by just one game. The Pirates have had a fantastic month of September and managed to catch up to the Cardinals after being swept by them the last time the two teams met. Every team has missed opportunities, so there is no reason to look back. Instead, it is time to look ahead to see who has the edge to win the NL Central.
The schedule favors the Cardinals, who are in Arizona to face a lowly Diamondbacks club that has lost eight of their last nine. They are the worst team in baseball and have a chance to finish the season with 99 losses. Dave Stewart has been brought in as the new general manager this week, but players have little to play for at this time. The Cardinals swept the only other series between the two teams this year.
The Pirates face division foe Cincinnati. The Reds would love to hinder the Pirates plans for a division title. The Reds are 10-6 against the Pirates this season winning four of six in Great American Ballpark. Friday's starting pitcher for the Reds, Mike Leake, has an ERA over seven this month, but has not lost to Pittsburgh in Cincinnati.
If one wants to make up odds in their head, the chances of a St. Louis sweep are much higher than the Pirates taking all three. However, the teams could each split their first two in their respective series and be forced to use their normal pitching staffs rather than having an opportunity to set them up for the playoffs.
There is also the possibility of a tie, which would mean a game 163 in St. Louis on Monday. Neither team wants that and it draws into question the tiebreaker rules. That remains a long shot though simply based on the strength of the opponents this weekend. Still the Pirates can put the pressure on the Cardinals since they play earlier each day.
On paper this one goes to the Cardinals. The Pirates will be happy to come out of the weekend as the host for the Wild Card game. It is conceivable that the Pirates could call upon a couple spot starters for Saturday and Sunday should they lose tonight and the Cardinals win. Of course, as the saying goes, "that's why they play the game," and only time will tell who really had the advantage.