After correctly predicting that the Pirates would end July with a 17-9 record to put them at 59-44, I am going to attempt to predict the record for the Bucs during the dog days of August as they aim to remain relevant in the pennant chase into September.
The Bucs have scuffled slightly as of late against the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, dropping four games over the last week to two of the National League's bottom two teams, not a good sign for a team seeking to make the playoffs.
As the deadline approached, the Bucs added Wandy Rodriguez, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, and Chad Qualls while giving up Brad Lincoln, Casey McGehee, and numerous minor leaguers. Much of the team's success over the next month will be dependent on these players providing what Neal Huntington anticipated when acquiring them.
So with that said, here is how the Pirates' month of August breaks down
Week 1: 1 @ CHC; 2 @ CIN
The Pirates begin the month with the last game of a series in Chicago followed by a critical three-game set in Cincinnati. Look for the Pirates to win the final game in the Windy City then follow it up with a series loss in Cincy. The Reds are the hottest team in baseball right now, even without Joey Votto, and pose the Pirates serious problems at their home park.
Record After Week 1: 61-46
Week 2: 4 vs. ARI; 3 vs. SD
The second week of the month brings the Pirates their longest homestand of the season, an 11 game stretch against teams from the NL West. The first week brings in the underachieving Arizona Diamondbacks, who have played much better as of recently, and the bottom-feeding San Diego Padres.
The Pirates have done exceptionally well at home this season as they have the best record in baseball under those conditions. Teams from outside the division, particularly, have been torched at PNC, and look for Arizona and San Diego to meet similar fates. The Pirates will take three of four from Arizona and follow it up with two of three from the Padres, a much needed week of success before the toughest stretch of the month.
Record After Week 2: 66-48
Week 3: 4 vs. LAD; 3 @ STL
The Bucs will have to push through the dog days with some extra effort during the third week as one of the best teams in the NL, the Los Angeles Dodgers, visit PNC for a four-game set followed by a three-game set against the defending World Champions in St. Louis.
Traditionally, the Dodgers have always given the Pirates fits, no matter where the game takes place. Look for them to circle this series as one they absolutely must have considering both teams are right at each other's throats in the Wild-Card race.
Follow that up with St. Louis, another team just a few games behind the Pirates looking to catch up, and one of the toughest, most important weeks of the season will be facing the young Bucs. Look for the team to split the series with LA before taking two of three under the gateway arch to barely make it away with a winning 4-3 record.
Record After Week 3: 70-51
Week 4: 3 @ SD; 3 vs. MIL
After a tough previous week, the Bucs get two of the poorer teams in the NL. However, I believe this is a trap week for the team and they won't make it out as clean as one would think. The team will finish the week 3-3, either dropping two of three to San Diego or Milwaukee.
The Pirates offense will be neutralized by Petco Park, and a home series against the Brewers won't be quite so friendly after a cross-country flight from California. Add the fact that the Brewers seem to be the Pirates Kryptonite, and this week could easily be one that really hurts the PIrates if they aren't careful.
Record After Week 4: 73-54
Week 5: 3 vs. STL; 1 @ MIL
The final week of the month brings a conclusion to a homestand with a three-game set vs. the St. Louis Cardinals followed by the start of a road trip through Milwaukee. The Pirates will be inspired to rebound from the week before, and it will likely be crucial to their playoff aspirations. The team will be 3-1 during the week and set up to win a couple of more during the first weekend of September
Final August Record: 16-11
Record After Week 5: 76-55