– The hot, young talent. The emerging ace with electric stuff. The relentlessly upbeat manager. The giddy relief that comes with washing away years of futility.

Yeah, Andrew McCutchen has seen this script before.

Two years ago, it was Pittsburgh's star center fielder and the rest of the Pirates who found themselves as baseball's new darlings when they crashed the playoffs for the first time in two decades.

Now it's the Chicago Cubs, whose rebuilding project hit warp speed somewhere between Joe Maddon's hire last winter and rookie slugger Kris Bryant's arrival in April.

"They've opened a lot of eyes," McCutchen said. "We were the hype in 2013. … Now it's 'Let's talk about the Cubs.' "

The Pirates can change the subject quickly Wednesday night in the NL wild-card game. The winner gets the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series starting Friday.

The clubs that combined for 195 wins both believe they can make a run provided they can survive baseball's version of a high-wire coin flip.

Pittsburgh is making its third consecutive playoff appearance. The Cubs hope to end their World Series drought at 107 years.

Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta of the Cubs led the majors with 22 wins and posted an 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break. The Pirates managed a lone single off him in a 4-0 Cubs' win on Sept. 27 and Arrieta has allowed four earned runs combined since Aug. 1.

Arrieta will face Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole.

Unlike Arrieta, 29, a late bloomer, Cole has been groomed for this stage from the day the Pirates took him with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. He made the All-Star team for the first time this summer while becoming the first Pittsburgh pitcher to reach 19 victories since 1991.

"He respects everything about the game, but he fears absolutely nothing," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's a wonderful place to be."

Any missteps will be magnified against Arrieta, whose historic second half propelled the Cubs to 97 victories, a number Maddon admitted is "pretty extravagant."

All it did was earn Chicago a chance at one more.

At some point late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning the team with one of the three best records in the majors will see its season end.

Maddon would prefer a best-of-three for this round. Hurdle is OK with the current format, perhaps because he's used to it — the Pirates lost last year, at home, to the eventual champion San Francisco.