Wake up call: Get your Wild Card thinking caps on

My season-long fret over the Pirates’ Spring Training declaration of “Central Division title or bust” has been … what if it’s bust? How do you make the mental adjustment to compete in a Wild Card scenario if it again comes to that?

We’re probably a week from finding out.

Even before that head-scratcher of a loss on Monday, the Bucs were looking at a stacked deck of Cards: Having to win out just to tie for the NL Central lead, since the Redbirds don’t figure to lose a game in their season-ending series with hapless Atlanta.

So even if a doubleheader sweep today leaves them two behind St. Louis — how are they going to make up those two games with the Cardinals playing the Braves?

So the best thing about winning two today would be avoiding having to watch the Cardinals celebrate in PNC Park. (Weird scenario: The Cardinals win the day game, and take the field at night in their champagne-soaked uniforms? No thank you.)

So here come the Cubs and Jake Arrieta.

The biggest help in making that mindset switch would come from Arrieta himself. The Bucs have seen a lot of possibly the Cy Young Award frontrunner and would be psyched to prove they can take him. The first five meetings with him have been tight.

The Pirates even won one of the five and were competitive in the other four.

#6 figures to be tight. To win, the Pirates wil have to do it 1-0, 2-1 or something like that.

Gerrit Cole would be just the man to do it.


My suggestion is give Tonya Harding and her husband front row seats behind the Cubs dugout in Cincinnati and Milwaukee. Make sure they know Arrieta’s number.
Then ship them to the Burgh for dinner with Branson Tuesday nite.
Then sneak Tonya into Jeffie’s uniform for Wednesday’s WC game. If anyone can teach someone to hit, it’s her!

Go Polanco! All we need is 10 to tie!

I will blaspheme, by-the-book warm and fuzzy Hurdle is good, but simply not a Championship guy.
Too many standard bad decisions. Lafromboise, really?!
And he shoul’da started Blanton. Who of us didn’t squint when we heard Morton?! And Branson is still in the dugout.
The office has assbled the best team in baseball, 360 degrees. But because of management errors, we could well be the best 97 win team to not make a divisional series.

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Hey, Cosmo !!!
Been out of the loop for a couple of days. (Watched all the games, though.) Mostly been trying to cope with/adjust to, the weather. Me ‘n my Better Half spent the last 25 years just south of Denver, Colorado, where some months we’d be lucky just to get half an inch of rain. (Kind’a kewl, however, ‘virga’ — when the clouds are dark and rain starts to fall but because of the altitude and heat, it completely evaporates before it ever reaches the ground.)
So this Spring, we move to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. Man, it’s like living on an entirely different planet. Here it’s rained pretty much steadily for more than a week. Animals lining up in our driveway, in pairs, knocking on the front door and asking if they can stay warm and dry in our garage until we finish getting the Ark built . . .
Wowser. I’ve never seen that before in my whole checkered LIFE !!!
I hear you about managerial decisions. Me, I’m a little more sanguine than you seem to be on this topic. You do have a point, but otoh, nobody’s perfect (well, except perhaps for MEEE . . .). Look around the league. There’s a *lot* of Front Offices that are a lot more dysfunctional than ours has been.
Personally, I think where the rubber hits to road (I love a good cliche now and then) is what gets done or not done over the coming winter. We can talk about needs and want lists once the actual 2015 season is over, but I do get the feeling some major changes are waiting in the wings before we start the 2016 season.
The order of business now is the marshall the resources we do have available and find a way to get past Mr. Arrieta. I suppose that’s theoretically possible. Hope springs eternal !! I’m a little surprised that there’s not more public controversy as to who should start the Wild Card game for the Buccos. I suppose it will be Mr. Cole, and I’m in the majority (I think) of those who would be okay with that. Nevertheless, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I keep hearing this plaintive voice calling out to me — “Why not start J.A. Happ ?? Would that be the better choice ??”
Geez. I don’t know. Not for sure. J.A. *is* a cool customer out there on the mound. Seems completely unflappable. Whereas Gerret, sometimes, seems to fall prey to his own emotions. And as high leverage situations go, this Wild Card game is just about as high leverage a game as a game of baseball can get. Yikes !!
My best guess is we’ll see a 1 – 0, or a 2 – 1, or a 2 – 0 game. Both teams are so good, pitchers on both sides are so good, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see this up-coming game decided by a “mistake pitch” (by one pitcher or the other), or by a physical or mental error. And I’m NOT sure playing in front of home-town fans (with all the pressure knowing that home-town fans want/expect you to win) is necessarily a good thing. Look at the Wild Card games for the past three years, across both leagues. Visitors have beaten the home team four games to two — and that would have been five games to one if Kansas City hadn’t pulled out a thriller in 12 innings against the Athletics.
Anyway, Mr. Cole may be our best starting pitcher, but Mr. Happ, well, he ain’t chopped liver, either. And Happ, in pressure situations, at least to me seems as if he has ice-water flowing through his veins.
So talk about your “managerial decisions.” We have a huge one coming up, just a few days from now.

From MLB.com —

And how would Rizzo approach Arrieta?

“See the ball and hit the ball,” Rizzo said. “You’ve got to pick a side of the plate and try to stick with it. He makes mistakes like everyone else. … “
Sounds like very good advice, to me.
And no standing there looking at called strike one. With Arrieta, you don’t work the count. The count works you. (He’s that good.) You see the ball ?? Hit it, *hard.* (If it’s in the strike zone, of course. We do have a couple of hitters, even if they have to “see” the baseball using a telescope, that seems good enough for them. They flail away at it even if it’s a foot outside the strike zone. Bummer. Oh well.)
It *is* a bit ironic, however. Mr. Searage tells his pitchers, “You want to get an out with no more than three or four pitches. So make sure the first one you throw is a strike. Don’t get behind. Pound the strike zone.” (Or words to that effect.)
At the same time, in the other corner of the club-house, I get the feeling that someone is telling our batters, “Try to be patient. Work the count. Wait for the pitch that *you* want to hit . . .”)
Oh, the agony of it all.

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