Traditionally, the “second half” in a MLB season is like is the three-quarter mark in a horse race: it’s where champions are made as well as broken. Many a team has hit the dog days of late-July and August and faded like the last rose of summer. The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to avoid such a fate, but first they must take care of business with the Mets this series.
A sweep would be nice as it would put the Pirates back at their season-high mark of 21 games over .500, and send the team into the break on high note after a mini-slump that saw them drop three consecutive three-game series.
And there’s no reason the Pirates can’t pull one off.
The Mets come into town next to last in the NL in team batting average (.235) and team slugging (.378), while the Pirates are first in all of baseball in team ERA (3.07), as well as opponent’s BA (.225).
The Pirates’ formula for winning so far this season has been shutdown pitching and timely hitting. Leading both leagues in shutouts with 13, the Bucs should be able to keep the Mets in check offensively while scoring just enough runs to win. If they can get a lead going into the seventh inning, the Pirates’ bullpen will take it from there.
Since the Pirates’ recent nine-game win streak, the team has gone 3-6 and has fallen out of first place, now one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates’ losing ways once again correlate with a Neil Walker injury that has put him on the 15-day disabled list — a right oblique problem that the team can only hope heals quickly over the break.
The Pirates have called up Josh Harrison, who was hitting .317 with four homers and 34 RBIs at Indy, no doubts with hopes of providing some much-need offensive spark.