It was only two weeks ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates were sitting seven games out of first place in the NL Central, fresh off a seven game losing streak. The streak came against contenders like the Detroit Tigers, the Washington Nationals, and the Atlanta Braves. It looked like their chances of winning the division were gone. Then they bounced back by going 7-2 in their next nine games, pulling to within two games of first place.
And now, a few days later, we’re nearly back to where we started.
The Pirates lost the final game against Cincinnati on Sunday, followed by a sweep against the Cardinals to start the week. St. Louis now finds themselves in first place, thanks in part to Milwaukee going on a free fall in the standings. Meanwhile, the Pirates are five games back in the NL Central, and two games behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot.
I’d say their chances of winning the Central or even making the playoffs are pretty much shot. But it was only two weeks ago that they were worse off than they are right now. And their schedule over the next two weeks is a lot easier than the schedule that saw them go 7-2.
Coming up, the Pirates have six games against the Cubs, four games against the Phillies, and three against the Red Sox. That’s 13 games against non-contenders. Of course the Cardinals have a fairly easy schedule, with a lot of games against the Reds, Cubs, and Rockies. Unless the Cardinals just start to fade down the stretch, it’s going to be difficult for the Pirates to make up the ground they just lost.
The silver lining here is that while the Pirates were struggling this week, so were the other teams in the Wild Card race. The Brewers have lost eight in a row. The Braves are 1.5 games ahead of the Pirates in the Wild Card race. The Giants are sitting 2.5 games ahead of the Brewers, putting the Pirates 4.5 games back from the first Wild Card spot. The Giants do have a somewhat difficult schedule coming up, with games against the Tigers, Dodgers, and several games against a Padres team that they’ve only managed to go .500 against.
It’s definitely possible for the Pirates to still make the Wild Card game. In fact, they could still get home field in the Wild Card game if they capitalize on the upcoming schedule. Maybe they win the Wild Card game, no matter who they play, or where they play it. But beyond that, it’s hard to see this team advancing any further in the playoffs after what we’ve seen the last few days.
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