First Pitch: The Most Important Series of the Year?

The Pirates take on the Cincinnati Reds this weekend in what could be the biggest series of the year. The two teams meet two more times this year — in Cincinnati in early September, and in Pittsburgh in late September — but considering the current standings, this is a key weekend for the Pirates to stay in the race.

Cincinnati has a 3.5 game lead over the Pirates. Best case scenario, the Pirates get a sweep and finish the weekend half a game out of first place. Worst case, they get swept and finish 6.5 game back. A 2-1 series win allows them to pick up one game, while a 2-1 series loss puts them another game back.

The Pirates might be catching the Reds at the right time. Cincinnati will be without Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Deven Mesoraco this weekend. And yeah, they’ve been winning without those guys, but they’ve also been playing the worst teams in the majors. The Reds also won’t be throwing Johnny Cueto. Meanwhile, the Pirates will be throwing their top three starters: Wandy Rodriguez on Friday, James McDonald on Saturday, and A.J. Burnett now moving up to Sunday.

A series win on the road in Cincinnati could provide a big boost for the Pirates. They follow that with an 11 game homestand, which is right in the middle of 20 games in a row without a day off. Beating the Reds to start that stretch could provide a huge boost, with the Pirates carrying momentum back home for the bulk of that 20 game stretch.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Tabata Has Four Hits; Nick Evans, Andrew Lambo Start Rehab.

**Indians Hold A Hit-O-Rama.

**How Did the Trade Deadline Impact the 2013 Payroll?

**After The Trade Deadline: Updated Top 20 Prospects.

**Andrew McCutchen Named NL Player of the Month for July.

**Minor Moves: Barrett Barnes to the DL, Pirates Sign Erik Turgeon.

**The High Asking Prices For Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino.

**How Do August Waiver Trades Work?

Analysis

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