Chicago Cubs: Breaking down potential playoff opponents

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Sep 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) celebrates after hitting a one run single off of St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates

Remember the days when the Pirates struggled to hit .500 and a raucous celebration ensued when that happened?

Yeah, those days are gone.

Clint Hurdle‘s club no longer cares about .500. They don’t care about getting a wild card spot. They care about one thing: winning a championship.

This season, Gerrit Cole has been the biggest story in Pittsburgh, finally stepping up and emerging as the staff ace in the Steel City. Some are already imagining what a one-game showdown between Cole and Arrieta could look like, but the details of that possibility are still very much up-in-the-air.

Offensively, Andrew McCutchen is once again having an MVP-caliber season, while young keys including Starling Marte and Jung-ho Kang have emerged as major factors for the Bucs’ push for October.

Behind Cole, Francisco Liriano is the most potent arm in that rotation, but left-hander J.A. Happ has been absolutely stellar since joining Pittsburgh. A.J. Burnett is set to return soon, giving the Pirates a very solid rotation.

Chicago will face the Pirates seven more times before the season ends, so fans will get to know this club intimately before any potential Wild Card action in early October.

Next: Late additions will push Chicago into the postseason