The Pittsburgh Pirates officially clinched a playoff spot on Sept. 23. However, the Pirates really knew they would be in the postseason for weeks -- but their status has slipped in the meantime. This September, Pittsburgh went from leading the NL Central to being in a dogfight for second place, and for home field advantage in its likely wild card game with the Cincinnati Reds.
At the least, the Pirates have that advantage back after Sept. 24, as they didn’t let up after clinching their spot against the Chicago Cubs. They really couldn’t afford to, and they played like it in beating the Cubs again by 8-2, while the Reds couldn’t even beat the New York Mets at home.
The Reds’ 4-2 loss dropped them a game behind the Pirates for second place with four games remaining. What’s more, Cincinnati dropped three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place, leaving virtually no room for error left in that race. The Pirates still have hopes to storm past the Cardinals at the last minute, yet the Reds look more unlikely to defend their division title.
Pittsburgh needs to keep beating Chicago like it is supposed to, then take care of none other than Cincinnati in the last weekend of the season. If the Pirates can’t beat the Reds in Cincinnati, they will have to stay there for the wild card game instead of hosting it in Pittsburgh. Given that the Pirates have won 50 home games, it would be very beneficial to host their first playoff contest in 21 years -- even if the Reds won twice at PNC Park this past weekend.
Those losses have kept the Pirates from getting closer to the Cardinals -- who actually helped them clinch a playoff berth by beating the Washington Nationals this week. After Michael Wacha no-hit the Nationals for 8 2-3’rd innings on Sept. 24, St. Louis is looking every bit like a division champion. In fact, if the Cardinals overtake the Atlanta Braves for the NL’s best record, they would face the winner of a Pirates-Reds wild card game in the NLDS.
In that scenario, the Pirates might really regret not holding onto the NL Central lead when they had the chance. However, they may also regret not holding off the Reds for the first wild card lead if they let up again.