On Labor Day, the Pittsburgh Pirates got paddled by the St. Louis Cardinals in Pittsburgh (STL 12, PIT 6). That marked the Pirates seventh-straight loss, and said loss knocked them under .500 for the first time since July 2. More to the point, here’s a look at the updated NL wild card standings

TeamWinsLossesWPCTGames behind

The most basic problem for the Pirates is that they’re presently 4 1/2 games out of playoff position. The other problem is that they must overtake not one but two teams in order to achieve playoff position. That and other reasons is why the SportsLine Projection System coming into Monday gave the Buccos just an 18.6 percent chance of making the postseason. After Monday’s loss to St. Louis — one of the teams the Pirates are trying to overtake — you can push that percentage even lower.

Just more than a week ago, the Pirates wrapped up a four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers and were just a half-game behind the Cardinals for that second wild-card berth. Since then, though, they’ve been outscored 47-22 by the Chicago Cubs , Brewers, and now Cardinals. Like any losing streak of length, it’s been a mix of failures, but giving up 47 runs in seven games is no way to win.

This, of course, goes back to the current state of the Pittsburgh rotation. It’s a rotation populated at the moment by Jameson Taillon , Ivan Nova , Steven Brault , Chad Kuhl , and Ryan Vogelsong . Some rotations can withstand the loss of an ace like Gerrit Cole (elbow inflammation), but this isn’t one of them. The trade of Francisco Liriano further thinned what depth there was. To be sure, the future with Taillon, Cole, and Tyler Glasnow is indeed bright, but this present arrangement is asking too much of Ray Searage and his powers of alchemy. Cole is slated to return on Sept. 12, but time will be running short by that point.

All that said, the season is obviously not lost for the Pirates. Their remaining opponents are below .500 combined. After they wrap up with the Cardinals (they do well to win the final two games of the series), they’ll play 15 straight against the Cincinnati Reds , Philadelphia Phillies , and Brewers. It’s imperative that the Pirates fatten up over that span because they end the season with nine straight against the Washington Nationals , Cubs, and Cardinals. It’s possible that the Nationals and Cubs will be in “rest up and stay healthy” mode by that point, so that could work in their favor. While you’d generally prefer more softies to close it out, it’s a good thing for the Pirates’ purposes that they still have five games left against the Cardinals. That’s five shots to whittle away at the lead they’ve allowed the Cardinals to build over the course of this losing streak. The Pirates aren’t dead, no, but recent events have left them with little margin for error the rest of the way.

Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Pirates facing long playoff odds after falling under .500 for the first time since July 2