Cubs-Pirates NL wild card preview

By Bob Elliott

NL wild card game
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

(Pirates won 11 of 19 meetings)

Cubs
Team payroll: $133.2 million (11th) 

Octobers: Two World Series, 10 NL pennants, and 17 playoff appearances. 

Post-season record: 35-62-1

Last post season: Swept in 2008 NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

Manager: Joe Maddon.   

Record: 97-65.  

How they got here: Did not have a losing month, with identical 19-9 records in August and September. 
Run differential: Plus 81.   

Stud Hosses: 1B Anthony Rizzo (hit .278 with 31 homers, 101 RBIs, .899 OPS), 3B Kris Bryant (.275, 26, 99, .858) and LF Chris Coghlan (.250, 16, 41, .784).

Theme: We’ll forgive Steve Bartman after 12 more wins. 

Looking up: RHP Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77, 48 walks, 236 strikeouts in 229 innings) and LHP Jon Lester (11-12, 3.34, 47 walks, 207 strikeouts in 205 innings).      

Looking down: 2B Addison Russell (.242, 13, 54, .686 OPS) and SS Starlin Castro (.265, 11, 69, .671).     

Canadian content: Montreal-born Shiraz Rehman, assistant GM, Ron Tostenson, national crosschecker, Kelowna, B.C, Montreal’s Tom Tango, statistical consultant, C Luke Carlin, Aylmer, Que. Triple A Iowa, LHP Rob Zastryzny, Edmonton, Double A Tennessee, INF Wes Darvill, Richmond, B.C., Tennessee, RHP Jasvir Rakkar, Brampton, Single A Myrtle Beach, 3B Jesse Hodges, Victoria, Single-A South Bend, C Justin Marra, Toronto, Single A Eugene, LHP Ryan Kellogg, Whitby, Eugene, OF Michael Foster, Pickering, Rookie Class Cubs.  

Canadian rootability rating: No. 3 (out of 10 Canadian teams). 

World Series odds: 10/1.

Pirates
Team payroll:  Pirates $98,9 million (24th). 

Octobers: Five World Series, nine NL Pennants, 17 post-season appearances. 

Post-season record: 49-46. 

Last post season: Lost 2014 wild card to San Francisco Giants.   

Manager: Clint Hurdle.   

Record: 98-64.  

How they got here: Their worst month was May (14-14) as they didn’t have a losing month with August being their best (19-7).  

Run differential: Plus 101.  

Stud Hosses: CF Andrew McCutchen (.292, 23, 96, .889), 1B Pedro Alvarez (.243, 27, 77, .787), LF    Starling Marte (.287, 19, 81, .780).

Theme: Third time is a charm in the wild card.   

Looking up: RHP Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60 with 44 walks and 202 whiffs in 208 innings) RP Mark Melancon (3-2    2.23, with 51 saves, 14 walks and 62 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings).

Looking down: RF Gregory Polanco (.256, nine, 52, .701), SS Jordy Mercer (.244), three, 34, .613).

Canadian content: 3B Eric Wood, Pickering, Double A, injured Jameson Taillon, who started vs. Team USA in 2013 WBC, whose mom is from Toronto and his father is from the Cornwall area. 

Canadian rootability rating: No. 6   

World Series odds: 11/1.