Oh, did I forget to mention that we’re Pirates fans too? These are the sacrifices we must now make for the good of Reds baseball. Cheering for the Cubs and Pirates: It’s despicable, but it’s a necessary evil.
If the Reds had swept the Cubs this past weekend, we’d be having a different conversation. Our Redlegs would have been within striking distance of the division and not sitting 7.5 games back, relegated to fighting for the either of the Wild Cards with the other eight hopefuls. But the Reds split the series. It’s a fine result and not one to whine about, but it does leave us in this curious predicament of root, root, rooting for the Cubbies.
It’s no secret that after these next seven games, the Reds schedule finally dials down its season-long gauntlet. Nick Kirby has been saying it here, Twitter, and to anyone who will listen since the All-Star Break. Instead of the Dodgers and Braves, the Reds will play the Padres, the Marlins, the Mariners, as well as a smattering of games against the Pirates. As Chad Dotson wrote for Cincinnati Magazine last week:
If the Reds can remain on the periphery of the Wild Card race until August 19—and yes, that’s a big “if”—there is a real path to a September full of exciting and meaningful baseball. Of course, they have to get to that date first, but I’m feeling better and better about Cincinnati’s chances of hanging around.
The Reds can also do a lot to help themselves over the last month of the season, with series against the Mets, Brewers, Phillies, and two against the Diamondbacks. The recipe for a late season comeback is there, and it’s just missing one ingredient: A pinch of help.
We all know the saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but even I won’t go as far to call the Cubs or Giants “friends.” For the remaining quarter of the season, let’s just think of the two as compatriots, complicit in the search for Red October.
Over their final 44 games, the Cubs three against the Reds (cheer for the Reds of course), six against the Pirates (pick your poison), and 35 against the other Wild Card contenders. While the Cubs miss playing the Phillies and the Diamondbacks, how the presumed NL Central champions do in the other 35 games will go a long way toward deciding whether the Reds can #SneakOnIn. Most critically, the Cubs have three games against the Nationals and six games left against the Cardinals, the teams who currently inhabit the first and second Wild Cards.
Also of importance, only 13 of those 35 games will be on the road for the notoriously away-phobic Cubs. After the Reds series, the Cubs improved to 23-35 on the road while 41-19 at home. Though it could be argued that at least Thursday’s game was home contest for the Cubs, given the jersey gimmicks before and the sea of blue in the stands during.
For the Pirates, it’s more of the same though on the other end of the logic spectrum. Pittsburgh’s season is going nowhere. The Pirates are done. They are washed up and have washed out of contention even if they keep up the eyewash that is throwing at other players’ heads. I think you get the point, but also why shouldn’t we revel in just how cooked the Pirates 2019 season is? It’s finished. Kaput.
And so now, we must reluctantly cheer for them.
Of the Pirates final 45 games, six are against the Reds, six against the Cubs, and 17 against other Wild Card contenders. Honestly, it’s nice that the schedule only necessitates us to be Pirates’ fans for half the games we need to be Cubs fans because let’s be real, counting on the Pirates to do anything right is foolhardy at best.
But the Pirates do have four games against the Nationals in Washington just as the Reds hit the easiest part of their schedule. That series could pry the Reds window of hope open just enough to see our playoff hopes realistically last into September.
Just imagine: The Pirates take the series from the Nationals, keeping the Reds within 4.0 games of the Wild Card or perhaps closer even. Then, just as Amir Garrett emerges from his suspension, the Pirates roll into Cincinnati, with the Reds hankering for a three-game beatdown. The Pittsburgh team thinks they’ve finally crawled out from under their ruler, Yasiel Puig, but Aristides Aquino comfortably takes over the reign. Meanwhile, Derek Dietrich consolidates all of his shares in Clint Hurdle’s head and begins operating the Pirates manager like a personal avatar.
In other words, rooting for the Pirates will only make revenge that much sweeter.
If the Reds are going to sneak on in to that second Wild Card slot, they’ll need to go on a tear while getting some help from non-vested parties. Sadly, those parties are the Cubs and the Pirates. It’s dirty job, rooting for those two clubs, but from here on out we all have to be a little bit more like Mike Rowe. We’re Cubs / Pirates fans now.