The Pittsburgh Pirates finally ended their much publicized and long drought last season when they won 94 games and made the postseason as a Wild Card. As we all probably know by now, it was their first playoff appearance since 1992. I was 3 years old at the time.
This season, the road has seemed to be a little tougher, with their top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole back and forth to the disabled list, their superstar Andrew McCutchen dealing with a rib injury and their top rookie Gregory Polanco struggling so much after such a great start to what the Pirates hope will be a long career.
Being stuck in third place for most of the season — behind the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals — they have just kept their heads above water for most of the season.
Fast forward to September and the Brewers are fading fast. The Brew crew is currently 75-71 and trailing by five games in the NL Central. The Bucs have leap frogged them and the only team that is standing in the way of their first division title in 22 years is the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season, the Cardinals.
While the wild card is all fine and good — after all it does get you into the playoffs, but with the second wild card being implemented recently, you are only one bad game away from being done for the season.
Last year’s MVP, McCutchen, is the guy who will have to be THE guy for these last 17 games of the season.
They trail the Cards by three and a half games in the Central, and hold the lead by a game and a half for the wild card spot.
Them holding a lead in at least the wild card has to be a great feeling, because even if they do not catch the Cards, they can still fall back on the fact that they are headed towards the playoffs.
A rib fracture forced McCutchen to miss 14 games in mid-August, and while the team scored 4.1 runs per game — right on par with their season 4.2 runs/game, they won only 5 of those 14 games.
Cutch showed why he is so valuable in last night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting his first career inside-the-park Home Run (126 total career HR’s) in the fifth inning during a 6-3 win.
The team has won 12 of 20 games since McCutchen’s return to the lineup on August 19th.
The injury might have even cost him a chance at the MVP award, although it would have been tough going up against Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and even Clayton Kershaw.
The team is 69-60 with him in the lineup, compared to just 7-9 without him. Even though he won’t win the NL MVP this season, there is no doubt that he is the TEAM’S most valuable player.
Batting .312 and hitting six homers since his return to the lineup, Cutch has sparked his team and been the main reason they have gone from third place in the Central to second place.
These final two and a half weeks, McCutchen will try to regain that 13′ MVP form to get them from second to first.
– Khristian Peel