Things looked pretty bleak for the Pittsburgh Pirates coming out of the weekend. They had lost four in a row for only the fourth time this season, including a three game sweep against the St. Louis Cardinals. There was the upcoming eight game home stretch to look forward to, but first there was the Texas Rangers, on the road. If you were thinking sweep after watching the Cardinals series, then you probably weren’t alone. But I don’t know if there was anyone who predicted that the team doing the sweeping would be the Pirates.
That series sweep was huge, especially with the upcoming schedule. The Cardinals won both of their games against Milwaukee since sweeping the Pirates this weekend, so the Pirates could only pick up half a game. Going forward the Pirates have an easy schedule. Their next eight games are at home against the Cubs and the Padres. That’s a good thing, because the next eight games for the Cardinals are against Milwaukee, Seattle, and Colorado.
The Pirates may be able to pad the win column, but it’s going to be tougher to make up ground against the Cardinals. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means it’s going to remain a tight race over the next eight games. The one advantage for the Pirates is that the Cardinals have to play four games at Coor’s Field, where the Rockies have a great home record, despite being a bad team. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are just 39-35 on the road, so they’re bound to lose 1-2 games during that series.
As Nate Barnes wrote yesterday, winning the division is important, but winning second place in the National League would be even better. The Pirates are a lock to make the playoffs. Winning the division will be tougher. I’m not so sure that winning second place and winning the division would be two separate goals. With the Pirates and Cardinals both having easy schedules coming up, they should both pad the win column and move toward the second best record in the NL in the process.
This will be an important stretch for the Pirates. They can’t afford to slip up, and they need to hope that the Cardinals do slip during their easy stretch. The division is separated by one game, so there is very little margin for error. Fortunately the Pirates do have an easy schedule, and have one of the best home records in baseball. On paper, it looks like the Pirates are set to add a lot of wins in the next week and a half. And thanks to the recent sweep over Texas, that leaves very little room for error with St. Louis, especially in their games in Colorado.
Links and Notes
**The latest episode of the Pirates Prospects podcast is out, featuring special guest Rocco DeMaro: P3 Episode 19: Catching Up With Rocco DeMaro
**Here is Nate’s article looking at how important home field advantage would be for the Pirates: The Pittsburgh Pirates need to not only win the NL Central…
**If you missed it: The Fall and Rise of the Pittsburgh Pirates: 100 Moments From The Streak
**Wilbur Miller has a great look at how this team was built, looking at how it was built using the same methods the Pirates have used for years: The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Change