The Pirates head to Miller Park tonight to close out the 2011 season in a series against the Brewers that's not quite as meaningless as you might think. At the moment, the Brewers have a one-game lead on the Diamondbacks for the NL's second best record, which is a big deal only if the Braves win the wild card. If the Braves win the wild card, the NL's second best team will play a Braves team with no pitching, while the division winner with the worst record will play the juggernaut Phillies. Obviously the Brewers would rather not start the playoffs off against the NL's best team. If the Cardinals take the wild card from the Braves, though, they play the Phillies no matter what. Playing the Braves in the first round is pretty much a free pass to the NLCS at this point, as they're not going to have Jair Jurrjens or Tommy Hanson in the NLDS. The Brewers can do all they can to ensure they face the Braves by sweeping the Pirates. They are good at this.
The Pirates, meanwhile, will be trying to finish the season with some wins in a place that they rarely win and to drive their win total up to somewhere between 72 and 74 wins. So they've got a little less on the line than the Brewers, though, of course, most teams rest players after they clinch whether they're jockeying for position or not. Still, I'd like to see the Pirates close out 2011 on something of a strong note, because what the heck, why not.
First pitch tonight is at 8:10. I get to use bwzimmerman's fine Charlie Morton graphic one last time in 2011. Shaun Marcum goes for the Brewers.