NL Central Face Off: St.Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
This year has been a tremendous year for the National League Central. The Pittsburgh Pirates have their first winning season since 1992. The Cincinnati Reds are in position for a wildcard spot. The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to repeat previous year’s successes.
The NL Central’s playoff race seems like the most ignored story in sports right now, and yet it has the most drama of any sport at this point in time.
What will the final result be? Could the Pirates be the NL Central Champions for the first time in their team history? Or will they top off a historic season with a wild card spot? Or maybe the Cardinals will edge them out over the next couple of weeks.
Strength of Schedule:
One thing to look at when comparing two teams vying for the playoffs is the strength of their opponents for the rest of the season.
St. Louis looks to have the easier of the two schedules. Tonight they start a four game series against the Colorado Rockies (68-82), and then they face the Milwaukee Brewers (65-83). They finish the year off with home games against the Washington Nationals (79-70) and the Chicago Cubs (63-86). On paper, the most difficult game will be against the Nationals who are looking to edge the Reds out of the final NL Wild Card spot.
Meanwhile, the Pirates schedule has them hosting the San Diego Padres (68-80) tonight and the Reds on Friday (84-66). Then they head out to Chicago for a three game series against the Cubs and then ending the season in Cincinnati. With two series against a division rival currently in contention for a wild-card spot, the Pirates don’t have time to rest or relax against any of the teams they face, if they want to keep up with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals pitching staff has earned so far this year a 3.48 ERA compared to the Pirates 3.28. Offensively the Cardinals have a better batting average (2.67 – first in the NL) compared to the Pirates (2.48). The Cardinals also have the most runs so far this year (715) compared to the Pirates (580).
The key to the Pirates success is going to be keeping the runs to a minimum and count on Andrew McCutchen to boost their offense. The Cardinals, meanwhile, can rely more on their offense (and still considerable pitching with Adam Wainwright and the rest of the pitching staff).
No matter how the NL Central plays out this year, it has been an exciting year whether you are a Cardinals, Pirates, or Reds fan.