The N.L. Wild Card will be played on Wednesday night, and the winner of that game will move to face the St. Louis Cardinals on and the loser will just go home. The Pittsburgh Pirates will take on the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh is playing in their third straight wild card game, while the Cubs haven’t made the playoffs since 2008.
The two teams are quite familiar with one another as they have played each other 19 times this season with the Cubs leading the series 11-8. The following is a position-by-position look at both teams and who is most likely to win on wild card Wednesday.
Starting pitcher: The Cubs will send Jake Arrieta to the mound and ESPN is reporting that the Pirates will counter with their ace Gerrit Cole. This will be Arrieta’s post season debut and no pitcher has been in a better groove since the All-Star break than Arrieta. Cubs manager Joe Maddon told MLB he has never had a pitcher have such a streak.
“If you break [Arrieta] down from the All-Star break to the end, I guess Mr. [Bob] Gibson is the only other dude, and he was my favorite pitcher growing up. You’re hard pressed to find a better performance than [Arrieta] has put on for the last several months.”
Cole has had a solid season as well, but not on Arrieta’s level. Cole missed last year’s wild card game because he pitched on the final day of the regular season. He has two postseason starts under his belt and has a 1-1 record with a 2.45 ERA. Advantage: Cubs
Catcher: Neither team has a huge star behind the plate, but both catchers are solid. Miguel Montero had 15 home runs on the year for the Cubs. The Pirates have Francisco Cervelli who enjoyed a good year in his first season as a full time player. Cervelli is hitting.293. Advantage: Push
First base: Pedro Alvarez provides a lot of pop for the Pirates, but he does not compare to Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs. Rizzo is a two-time All-Star who is just 26-years-old, but he is the leader of the Cubs. Advantage: Cubs
Second base: Starlin Castro was once the up and coming shortstop for the Cubs, but now he is manning second base and just isn’t as highly regarded as he once was. Veteran Neil walker provides some thump from the second base position for Pittsburgh. Advantage: Pirates
Third base: Cubs third sacker Kris Bryant came into the league as one of the most talked about power hitters in the game and he backed it up. Bryant also went through the regular ups and downs that most rookies go through. Pittsburgh third baseman Aramis Ramirez will be retiring after this season and is looking for one more shot at a World Series win. Advantage: Cubs
Left field: Both teams have talented left fielders. Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber is a converted catcher whose bat helped him crack the lineup. Starling Marte has speed and has reached career highs for doubles, home runs, and runs batted in this season. This one is a very close call. Advantage: Pirates
Center field: This is the position that is the easiest to call. Dexter Fowler is an average center fielder for the Cubs, but Andrew McCutchen is a perennial MVP candidate. McCutchen has been the leader of the Pirates for a long time and wants to take this team to the next level.
Bullpen: Pirates closer Mark Melancon leads the world in saves and may make the difference between these two bullpens. Advantage: Pirates
Overall, it is hard to say just who will win in a one game playoff, but my wild card prediction is the Pirates will be able to get to Arrieta just a little bit and win a low scoring game.
You can catch the N.L. Wild Card game on TBS at 8 p.m. EST.
[Image by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images]