Charlie Wilmoth: I think it definitely could be. Like you said, the Pirates have really done badly recently. Last season, they started losing down the stretch in late July, and I think Pirates fans are bracing themselves for that to happen again. But there’s no reason it has to happen to that way. If the Pirates can wheel off two out of three against the Cardinals, then that would certainly be big for them in terms of saving their season which is currently headed in the wrong direction.
SH: Both the Pirates and Cardinals made minor moves at the trade deadline to improve their rosters. Do you think either could have or should have done more to address needs?
CW: I think a lot of Pirates fans would say that the Pirates should have done more and acquired someone like Chase Headley or Hunter Pence…but I think the Pirates are thinking of it in more of a long term plan and trying to build a franchise that will contend not only this year but also in years beyond this one, and it would be tough to keep contending if they gave up a lot of young talent for a player that might be a rental.
I like that they acquired Travis Snider, a player who has the potential to be a fixture in a corner outfield spot for several years. I like the Wandy Rodriguez trade which gives them some stability in their rotation and it didn’t cost a ton in terms of prospects. They balanced their short term needs as well as their long term needs pretty well. Most fans orientation is toward whatever the short term goal is and they don’t have a tendency to think about next year, but in the case of the Pirates, you have to also think about the long term.
SH: Do you think the Pirates are content, even slightly, to finish the season above .500, even if that means missing out on the playoffs, just because it’s been 20 years since they did that? Or have you seen that look in their eyes that it’s playoffs or bust this season?
CW: It’s hard to comment on their motivation but I think that finishing above .500 would be huge and that in itself is a cause for celebration. But at this point they’re ten games over .500…and I think they have to aim higher because they’re only within two games of a playoff spot and even though they’re heading in the wrong direction, there is still lots of time to turn it around this season.
SH: How do you see the Wild Card situation sorting itself out by the time October 4th rolls around?
CW: I think the Cardinals are going to win it. I think they’re a much better team than the Pirates, most notably by looking at the run differential. The Cardinals have scored 120 more runs than they have allowed while the Pirates have only scored 18 more runs than they have allowed. The Cardinals are clearly better than their current record while the Pirates are probably a little worse than their current record. Of course there’s also going to be a team in the NL West to contend with as well, but I still think the Cardinals will still come out on top.
Bradley Baskir contributed to this article.