Morning cup: Sowing Wild (Card) oats
Let’s assume for a minute that the Pirates will NOT head off the Cardinals for the NL Central title — I know it’s a stretch, but bear with me.
That would mean an inevitable Wild Card game against the Cubs.
How critical does that scenario make the seven remaining regular-season games between the teams? In other words, what is the value of the No. 1 seed and the home-field advantage that comes with it?
Don’t quickly dismiss that with, “Duh! Of course hosting that game is huge.”
But would it be decisive? This currently hypothetical issue is rife with pros and cons.
The Bucs are having a season-long problem with winning in Central cities — 7-18 at this moment; but Jake Arrieta, Joe Maddon’s likely choice for the WC start, has won both starts in PNC Park this season with an 0.64 ERA.
The Pirates might prefer getting Jon Lester, but that would happen only if the game is in Wrigley Field, where the lefty has made 17 of his first 25 starts.
Gerrit Cole, who would get the ball, has been a sharper road pitcher in his young career (2.87 ERA v 3.26) and is 4-1 in five starts in Wrigley, where he has yet to allow a homer in 30 innings — while fanning 40 and walking five.
The Cubs would have to be taking a lot of momentum into a Wrigley Wild Card game, since they’ve been chasing the Bucs all season … Blackout versus Bleacher Creatures.
Anyway, it’s far from decided. By the way, the schedule still shows only six remaining games between the teams; the seventh will be the makeup of the Aug. 3 rainout at PNC Park. The makeup date hasn’t yet been announced, but it will be during the Cubs’ Sept. 15-17 visit, either on Sept. 14, a scheduled off day for both teams (they’re waiting approval by the MLB Players Association) or as part of a day-night doubleheader on the 15th.