I had the Pittsburgh Pirates counted out of the playoff hunt a few days ago. After maintain their place in Wild Card position for much of the year, the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers both found their way past them in the standings, and after play finished on August 27 the Pirates were a full three games out in “third place” for the final playoff spot.
I’m sure the last two decades of futility have served to properly condition me against any sort of positive expectations concerning the Pirates, but it just didn’t seem like this year’s team, although so much better than anything they’ve put on the field in recent memory, would be able to stack up with the likes of the Cardinals and Dodgers over the final month-and-change of the season.
On one hand we had the Cardinals with the best offense in the National League (by runs scored) shredding through opposing pitching, and on the other hand we had the Dodgers with the best pitching in the National League (by runs allowed) who had also just traded for an elite bat to bolster their lineup.
But now, just two days later, things don’t look nearly so bleak for Pittsburgh. They somehow managed back-to-back shutout wins over the Cardinals on the back of strong pitching performances by James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez and plenty of offense courtesy of three Pedro Alvarez home runs (seven runs batted in over the two games). Just like that the Pirates had leapfrogged the Dodgers and pulled to within a single game of St. Louis.
The Pittsburgh faithful are certainly going to see their first winning season since 1992, but they may be in for more as well. I’m certainly not going to count them out of the October hunt again so soon, anyway. I should have learned after the late season heroics of the Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays that it’s never over until it’s over. It’s a cliché, certainly, but it’s been proved to be true time and again in baseball races. The Pittsburgh Pirates are alive and well in the NL Wild Card Race, and they look like they’re going to continue to put up a fight.
Matt Snyder can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.
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