The Cubs beat the Pirates last night behind the kind of shutdown Jake Arrieta performance (and Travis Wood, too) that we hope to see on October 7th when these two teams likely meet again. It’s not easy to do that kind of thing to a team so quick in succession (let alone three time, since Arrieta also just faced the Pirates on September 16), but Arrieta is awfully special.
The game brought the Cubs to within 4.5 of the Pirates with 8 games left to play. If the Cubs win all of them and the Pirates go 3-4 in their 7 remaining, the teams would be tied in the final standings, and the tiebreaker would give Wild Card Game home field to the Cubs. Possible? Sure. Not bloody likely.
Given that, as I mentioned yesterday, I didn’t necessarily love seeing the Cubs beat the Pirates last night. Yes, in the moment, you want to see Jake do well and you like seeing Starlin Castro’s near homer, etc. But as I sit here the next morning and I think about the best, realistic playoff-related implications for the Cubs, a loss probably would have been better.
That’s because it could have brought the Pirates a game closer to the Cardinals, who lost 8-4 to the Brewers after giving up 7(!) runs in the 9th. They remain 3.0 games up on the Pirates, but they probably feel a little silly today.
Whichever team you want to see the Cubs facing in the Wild Card Game, you definitely want the Cardinals and Pirates to be close in the standings as long as possible so that they still have something to play for when the final days of the season arrive. You want those teams having to make tough decisions about who plays when, how they do or don’t rest guys, etc. And you really, really want them to finish tied, because then they’ve got to play a tiebreaker game before the loser faces the Cubs in the Wild Card Game (with less rest, and very likely with their second best starter).
The Pirates’ loss last night didn’t help that process.
But, hey, maybe the Cubs winning will offer some other kinds of less definable benefits. They had been on a mini losing streak, after all, and maybe they needed a little boost? I’m stretching.
In any case, it’s now time to root for the Pirates against the Cardinals (or, I suppose, if the Cardinals win today, then you’re probably rooting for a sweep in the other direction).