Hey, the Bucs are the feel good story of the day, overcoming injuries and low pre-season expectations to become a player in the NL Central. There are three periods in the upcoming schedule that should prove crucial to continuing that storyline, one rough row per month.
The first comes pretty quickly. Right after the All-Star break, the Bucs go to Houston. That's followed by a six game homestand against the Reds and Cards, then a brutal seven game stretch on the road against the Braves and the Phillies, the top two teams in the NL at the break. And the FO wants the Pirates in the Eastern Division?
The next crunch time will be August 12-28th. Pittsburgh visits the Brewers, where the Pirates are traditionally snake-bitten. Then comes what could be a defining moment of the race, at least as far as the Bucs are concerned; a ten game stretch at PNC Park against St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cincy. That's followed by a four-game visit to Busch Stadium, and how the Pirates fare then will go a long way into determining if they're contenders or pretenders.
And if the club survives well enough to hang around through that part of the schedule, the computer has spit out one last challenge at the very end of the season. The Bucs host the Cards for the last time starting September 12th for three games, then go on their last West Coast trip to visit LA and Arizona. They come home to face the Reds for a three game set and then close the season at Miller Park against the Brewers.
While the Bucs are 20-12 versus the Central, the bulk of the divisional play will take place in the second half of the season. They have 48 games left versus Central foes, and just about half are against the Brewers and Cards. Thirteen are against St. Louis (9-H, 4-A), ten against Milwaukee (4-H, 6-A), nine against Cincinnati (9-H) and Houston (3-H, 6-A) with seven remaining against Chicago (4-H, 3-A).
The good new is that thirty of those games are at PNC Park. The Pirates have left themselves in a strong position if they can keep on churning out series wins...and navigate three treacherous stretches of white water in their schedule.