The Pirates are back in the NL Wild Card for the second year in a row, and it's do or die yet again. But, it sure beats the alternative for a team that failed to win more games than it lost each previous season going back to 1993.
While Pittsburgh nipped their NL Central rivals, the Reds, with a 1-0 win last year in Cincinnati, the Bucs are stuck dealing with a Giants ballclub tonight that won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. Hey, at least this one is on home turf.
But the task won't be easy. San Francisco will trot out 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner, who pitched to a 2.98 ERA. Catching for the lefthander is Buster Posey, the 2012 NL MVP who hit .311 with 22 home runs and 89 RBIs to lead the team this year.
Good news for Pittsburgh: Reigning league MVP Andrew McCutchen was even better. The centerfielder hit .314 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs, plus a league-best .410 on-base percentage.
The X-factor here is Edinson Volquez, who takes the hill for the Pirates. The righthander went 5-1 after the All-Star break with a 2.20 ERA in 13 starts, and had a strong season overall. The trouble throughout Volquez's career has been consistency. He was great in 2008 for the Reds but was mediocre to bad from 2009-2013. If Volquez pitches as well as he has this season -- and he should -- the Pirates will get a crack at the Nationals next beginning this weekend.