Are the Pittsburgh Pirates Ready to Make a Second Half Run?
The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the Milwaukee Brewers series with a 43-49 record right before the All-Star break. It was a crucial five-game set with the Pirates' season hanging in the balance. A stunning performance saw them sweep that series and enter the All-Star break with a 48-49 MLB record.
Pittsburgh played the Cincinnati Reds for a three-game set on the road this past weekend. The Pirates swept them also, including a 9-2 win on Sunday afternoon against the Reds. Pittsburgh's record is now 51-49. They now sit in third place in the National League Central.
The Pirates leapfrogged two teams in the standings in the process - the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. Pittsburgh are up 0.5 games on both of them. However, the Pirates are still eight games back from the Chicago Cubs and 4.5 games back from the Milwaukee Brewers for second place in the NL Central.
The Atlanta Braves currently own the second wild-card spot in the National League with a 53-43 record. The Pittsburgh Pirates are only four games back from them. The Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks are both ahead of them in the standings also. Pittsburgh is 2.5 games back from Colorado and 3 games back from Arizona.
One of the main reasons why the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the Wild Card race is because of their starting pitchers. Jamison Taillon (7-7 record, 3.80 ERA), Chad Kuhl (5-5 record, 4.55 ERA), Ivan Nova (6-6 record, 4.28 ERA), and Trevor Williams (7-7 record, 4.36 ERA) are some of those starting pitchers.
Taillon has walked 31 batters and has struck out 109 batters. Kuhl has walked 33 batters and has struck out 81 batters. Nova has walked 19 batters and has struck out 81 batters. Williams has walked 35 batters and has struck out 71.
Felipe Vazquez was the Pittsburgh Pirates lone all-star and he is the team's closer. His record is 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA. He has 23 saves in 27 tries. In 42.1 innings pitched, Vazquez has given up 37 hits and 17 runs. He has walked 17 batters and has struck out 59.
Corey Dickerson has been the Pirates engine in the lineup. He is their leadoff hitter and has hit a home run in each of his last four games. Dickerson's batting average is .315 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI's, along with six stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .347.
Starling Marte has a .287 batting average with 15 home runs and 49 RBI's, along with 25 stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .333.
Gregory Polanco has a .237 batting average with 17 home runs and 54 RBI's, along with four stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .335.
Josh Harrison has dealt with some injury issues this season. He is dealing with a hamstring strain at the moment. Harrison has a .249 batting average with four home runs and 23 RBI's, along with three stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .291.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli has been a surprise with the bat this season for the Pirates. His batting average is .243 with nine home runs and 36 RBI's, along with one stolen base. He has a .379 on-base percentage.
Josh Bell has a .267 batting average with five home runs and 47 RBI's. His on-base percentage is .350.
Dickerson, Marte, and Bell are some key players igniting this team right now. If for some strange reason the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoff race come September, outfielder Austin Meadows could play a monster role for them.
Meadows has played in 48 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates so far this season. His batting average is .298 with five home runs and 13 RBI's, along with four stolen bases. Meadows's on-base percentage is .333.
Before the trade deadline next Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates play a three-game set on the road against the Cleveland Indians and a four-game set at home against the New York Mets. If Pittsburgh goes 5-2 or better, they will be in good hands.
They could make a trade in order to bolster their roster or make a trade to improve the minor league system. After the trading deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates could control their own destiny in the month of August.
Pittsburgh plays the Chicago Cubs six times, the St. Louis Cardinals four times, the San Francisco Giants four times, the Colorado Rockies three times, the Atlanta Braves four times, and the Milwaukee Brewers three times. Most of these matchups will be on the road.
The Pirates haven't been as good on the road this season as they have been at home. They are 29-24 at home and 22-25 on the road.
In the month of September, the Pittsburgh Pirates will play 12 games against horrible baseball teams. They will play the Cincinnati Reds six times, the Miami Marlins three times, and the Kansas City Royals three times.
Pittsburgh will also play the Braves twice, the Cardinals three times, and the Brewers six times. Their downfall could be playing the Chicago Cubs four times on the road, the second to last series of the regular season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates could very well make a second-half run with their schedule, but they have to take advantage of it. It will not be easy for them, but it is more possible for them to make a second-half run than you think because they are playing very good baseball right now and they still have 62 games left to play.
Whether they make it to the playoffs or not is another story.