MLB playoffs: Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates in NL Wild Card game
First-year Cubs manager Joe Maddon has led Chicago back to the postseason for the first time in seven years. Pittsburgh stands in their way of advancing.
Two of the oldest franchises in Major League Baseball square off Wednesday night in Pittsburgh when the Pirates host the Chicago Cubs in the National League Wild Card playoff game.
The Cubs began life as the Chicago White Stockings, a charter member of the National League (NL) back in 1876, according to the Cubs' website. A local newspaper started referring to the team as the "Cubs" after the turn of the 20th century and the team officially adopted the name in 1907.
The Pirates, according to their website, came into existence as the Pittsburgh Alleghenies in 1887. Four years later, they are renamed the "Pirates" after signing a player away from the Philadelphia Athletics.
And with those long histories, the two teams have postseason track record. Chicago played in 10 World Series between 1906 and 1945, last winning in 1908. Most recently, the Cubs were in the playoffs back in 2008. Pittsburgh has won the World Series on five occasions, the last time in 1979. Last season, the Pirates lost the NL Wild Card game to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
As for this season, both teams excelled on the diamond – the Pirates winning 98 games and the Cubs 97 in perhaps the best division in Major League Baseball this year, the NL Central, captured by the St. Louis Cardinals with 100 victories.
Some say its unfair that these two clubs have to settle for a one-game playoff to advance to the NL Division Series, where the winner will face the Cardinals in a best-of-five game showdown, starting Friday evening in St. Louis.
Wednesday night's game should feature some outstanding pitching. On the mound for the Cubs will be right hander Jake Arrieta, who won 22 games against six losses with an incredible earned run average (ERA) of 1.77. For reference, Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers led Major League Baseball in ERA this season with a 1.66 mark.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle will give the ball to right hander Gerrit Cole, who went 19-8 in 2015 with an ERA of 2.60.
The Cubs have a power-hitting duo in first baseman Anthony Rizzo and rookie third baseman Kris Bryant. Between the pair, they hit a total of 57 home runs and drove in 200 runs during the 2015 regular season.
The Pirates are led by their All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who hit .292 with 23 home runs and 96 runs batted in this year. Left fielder Starling Marte and first baseman Pedro Alvarez also provided some pop at the plate, driving in 148 runs between them.
The National League Wild Card game will be televised on TBS, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.