The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of a bunch of teams in the crowded National League Wild Card race, but they're going to be without closer David Bednar for a couple of weeks after he was placed on the 15-day injured list due to a strained left oblique. The move is retroactive to June 20, and left-handed pitcher Justin Bruihl has been recalled from the Major League taxi squad/Triple-A Indianapolis.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said Sunday he's hoping the injury is “minor,” according to Noah Hiles of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Even if it's not too serious, Pittsburgh will have to make do without its two-time All-Star closer for the rest of June and into July. He's eligible to be activated off the IL on July 4.

Bednar hasn't been quite as effective this season as he was in previous years, with a 5.17 ERA to his name so far. Still, he has 16 saves on the year, tied for eighth in MLB, and he has converted 15 in a row after blowing three of his first four attempts.

With Bednar hurting, the Pirates turned to hard-throwing veteran Aroldis Chapman for the save in Saturday's 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Chapman has two saves, 13 holds and a 4.00 ERA heading into play Sunday, with 45 strikeouts in 27 innings.

Colin Holderman is another candidate to close games with Bednar out. Holderman has a 0.68 ERA in 26 2/3 innings this season.

David Bednar's importance to Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher David Bednar (51) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at PNC Park.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While the Pirates have been rebuilding for a while, David Bednar has been a bright spot in recent seasons after a rough start to his career with the San Diego Padres. Bednar came to Pittsburgh in 2021 and boasted an ERA in the 2s in each of the last three years.

Bednar earned his first All-Star appearance in 2022 and then enjoyed a career year in 2023, tying for the NL lead in saves with 39 and finishing with a career-best 2.00 ERA. The righty struck out 80 batters in 67 1/3 innings.

With Bednar finding his groove of late after his rough start to the season, it's a tough break to be interrupted by this injury. The Pirates do have some quality options behind him with Chapman and Holderman, but it will be an adjustment for the time being without Bednar.

Pirates fighting for a playoff spot

Pittsburgh hasn't been to the playoffs since 2015 and hasn't finished over .500 since 2018. However, there's now legitimate reason for hope this season thanks to a rotation led by Paul Skenes, Jared Jones and Mitch Keller.

The Pirates are still just 37-39 on the season after starting 9-2, but they're right in the thick of things in the NL. Pittsburgh is 1.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres for the final Wild Card spots. There are nine teams within three games of each other in this race, so it's going to be crazy in the second half of the year.

The Pirates have to hope David Bednar will be back and ready to roll as this race heats up down the stretch.