Baseball is a crazy sport. A team can be deemed dead in a playoff race, only to resurface as a contender again the next week. These comebacks are remarkable and happen to at least one team every year. This is what is happening right now to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Last week, the Pirates were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak that led many fans to rule them out of the race for the NL Central, and some even ruled them out of the Wild Card race. And now just a week later, the Pirates have won seven of their last nine games, and are only 2.0 games back in the NL Central. Not only are they back in contention for the division, they should be considered the favorites to win it.
Out of all of the teams in the NL Central, the Pirates have the most balanced team. Their offense has been clicking all season, and their pitching staff is giving them quality starts recently. The teams they are competing against are not nearly as balanced. The St. Louis Cardinals have been sputtering with their pitching staff even with their new pitching acquisitions, and their offense has been lagging with Yadier Molina on the shelf.
The Milwaukee Brewers are surprisingly still in the playoff race, but are currently riding a losing streak. However, these aren’t the only reasons why the Pirates should be the favorites in the NL Central.
The Pirates have a pretty easy schedule in September, with half of their series being against teams that are below .500. The Pirates have beat up on bad teams this season, and that should mean that the team will continue to win. That will force the Brewers and Cardinals to continue to win their games to keep pace with the Pirates.
Finally, the Pirates have players who they can call up this month that the Cardinals and Brewers can’t. The Pirates will be calling up a top prospect in Gregory Polanco, veteran relievers such as Vin Mazzaro and Rafael Perez, and a hitter on a hot streak in Tony Sanchez. With these players on their way, the Pirates will have plenty of depth to help continue their playoff push.
The Pirates have not led the NL Central to this point in the season, but they are right in the hunt. A perfect storm of several factors should give the Pirates the edge in the NL Central race, and they should find themselves back to playing October baseball at the end of the year.