Pittsburgh Pirates: Next 9 Games Will Tell a Lot About Their Playoff Chances

Doug Tyburski@@dtyburContributor IIIAugust 31, 2012

A.J. Burnett & James McDonald will have to be two of the leaders coming down the stretch run for a playoff spot.
A.J. Burnett & James McDonald will have to be two of the leaders coming down the stretch run for a playoff spot.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a much needed day off yesterday. Not only did they get a rest before their upcoming month long playoff run ahead, they also hit a triple without playing a game.

With the Cardinals' loss to the Nationals last night, the Bucs moved to within a half game of the last wild card spot. Thanks to the Diamondbacks' win in Los Angeles, the Pirates are now ahead of the Dodgers by a full game and have played three less games than Don Mattingly's team.

One more important game that went under the radar was the Cubs' ninth-inning comeback victory against the Brewers.

The Brewers' loss was important for a few reasons as they were starting to go on a nice run. While their playoff chances were a long shot at best, the Twitter world and the Brewers' players were starting to mention the word wild card in many of their sentences.

Losing a game after having a big lead against a bottom-dweller in the division can hurt a team's psyche. Any thought the Brew Crew had of a September playoff run may have taken a hit. It also helps that the Pirates are coming to town after a heartbreaking loss.

The fact Pittsburgh's team doesn't have a great recent history against Milwaukee, especially away from PNC Park, playing them after a bad loss is a positive.

This brings us to tonight. The Pirates start a three game series in Milwaukee. No matter Milwaukee's record, the Pirates haven't had the best of luck at Miller Park. Pittsburgh must not take the Brewers lightly. They are still a very dangerous club, especially offensively in that ball park. The Pirates must focus and at least take two out of three in this series. 

What makes this series even more important is the fact the following six games are against the Astros and Cubs—very winnable games to say the least. These next nine game can make or break the season for the Pirates.

This is a part of the schedule where statements need to be made. Good teams beat the clubs they should beat. Never mind past history or any other reasoning or excuses that are floated around. If you want to make the postseason, you win games against bad teams. A 7-2 record during this stretch isn't too much to ask.

Baseball in Pittsburgh is relative for the first time in 20 years as we turn the page towards September. It's now up to the Pirates to make sure baseball is still relative come October.