By Jared Lankes
The Pirates roller coaster ride of 2016 continued over the weekend as they were swept at home against the lowly Brewers. They have now fallen to .500 at 67-67 and sit behind the Cardinals and Mets in the NL wildcard race. While they are still in the picture, they need to step it up to have any shot. They start a crucial 3-game series against the Cardinals. A bad series could crucify them while a good series could be a definite game-changer.
Monday: Chad Kuhl (3-2 3.70 ERA) vs Adam Wainwright (9-8 4.53 ERA) 4:05 ET
The Pirates have been very reliant on Chad Kuhl, and he has delivered. The rookie right-hander has worked his way into the conversation for next year while doing his part to help the team this season. For the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright gets the call. However, this isn’t the same Wainwright we are used to. He has lost velocity and is just not the same guy he was even two or three years ago. Though, his soft tossing is something the Pirates always struggle against for some reason.
Tuesday: Ryan Vogelsong (3-4 3.56 ERA) vs Luke Weaver (1-2 3.86 ERA) 7:05 ET
Another veteran that relies on command over speed is Ryan Vogelsong. He has been a nice surprise to the rotation for the Pirates. The 39-year old has fallen off a bit recently but has still been rather effective. From veteran to youngster, Luke Weaver goes for the Cardinals. This young righty was thrust into action when injuries started piling up for the Cardinals. He has been good so far. However, he is still a rookie, so we will see which version we get.
Wednesday: Jameson Taillon (3-4 3.25 ERA) vs TBD 7:05 ET
The Pirates wasted a great start from Taillon on Friday in a 1-0 loss to the Brewers. Taillon overall has pitched very well and has been an x-factor for the Pirates this year. He’s been great and figures to be that way for quite a long time. For the Cardinals, they haven’t officially announced a starter yet, so we will have to wait and see.
There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, the Pirates need to win this series. This is a “must-win” series and not one of the “kind of must wins” but the literal form instead. If they do not win this series, they could very well be done in the playoff hunt. I hate to say that, but it has become reality at this point.