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Pittsburgh Pirates Are Back on Track After a Rough Stretch

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 5:  Clint Barmes #12 of the Pittsburgh Pirates lays down a bunt, scoring Alex Presley #7 from third in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros during the game on September 5, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer ISeptember 6, 2012

I have good news for Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Then more good news. Then a little more good news.

And then I'll finish this piece up with some good news.

First of all, the Pirates did not falter to the lowly Houston Astros. Despite losing the first game, the Pirates won the series, capped off with last night's 6-3 win. Alex Presley tripled home a run and then scored on a squeeze play. Kevin Correia pitched six solid innings, giving up just one run for the win, his tenth of the year.

This series win was just their third since August 1. They had dropped 22 of 34 games and were sliding out of the playoff chase.

Well, then, here is the second piece of good news. Despite that horrible stretch, they are going into the first weekend after Labor Day just one game back in the loss column for a playoff spot.

After playing so poorly, the Pirates should have fallen completely out of the hunt. But some inconsistent play by the Braves and Cardinals kept them in it. With a little help from R. A. Dickey and the Mets, the St. Louis Cardinals lost today and allowed the Pirates to get within striking distance.

Now it will only take a modest winning streak to get the Pirates into one of the wild-card spots going into mid-September. And that leads us to the third piece of good news.

The Pirates weak schedule is coming into play. After a day off, they will host the Chicago Cubs, who are second only to the Astros in terms of awful records. They play Chicago seven out of their next ten games.

In fact, unless Milwaukee continues to win, the only teams that are above .500 and on their schedule are the Reds, whom they play six times, and the Braves, with whom they finish the season with a three-game set.

And the Reds are so far ahead of the pack that, when they play the Bucs for the second series in late September, they could be resting regulars.

Instead the Pirates will get a steady diet of Cubs, Brewers, Astros and Mets. If there is a group of games that could give a team a lift in the standings, it would be those 17.

And, finally, the best piece of good news: that the Pirates will finally have a winning season is almost a given and no longer the goal or even the focus of the club anymore. This is a team thinking about playing into October, not getting 82 wins and putting to rest any mention of Francisco Cabrera.

There is a lot of good news for the Pirates this September.

Win the games you are supposed to win and let the celebration begin.

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