Most analysts are content in waiving the white flag in regards to the Pittsburgh Pirates winning the division. They shouldn’t be so quick to concede the top spot in the National League Central. Not yet, at least.
The Pirates currently sit six games out of first with a little more than five weeks left in the season. A recently ended seven-game losing streak has forced the Pirates down a notch in the division, where they are looking up to both the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
But here’s the good news: The Pirates still have six games remaining against every team in the division, a godsend considering the Chicago Cubs are awful, the Cincinnati Reds are slumping and the Cardinals and Brewers are the teams they need to catch.
Here’s the bad news: The Pirates are headed into a three-game set in Milwaukee, a place that has been a house of horrors in the past several years. That’s not to mention the team has looked incredibly shaky in the past week with the starting pitchers and bullpen giving up runs at an astronomical clip.
Even if the Pirates have a poor showing in Wisconsin, all hope still isn’t lost.
It was only three years ago when the Boston Red Sox led the Tampa Bay Rays by nine games in early September, with both teams competing for the last American League wild-card spot. In an epic collapse, the Red Sox lost their wild-card spot on the final day of the season.
There are plenty of other examples as well. The 2011 Atlanta Braves accomplished the same feat as the Red Sox, going 9-18 in September and losing a 10.5-game lead on the Cardinals for the final National League wild-card spot.
In 2009, the Detroit Tigers lost a three-game lead with only four games remaining in the season, the only team in Major League history to do so.
Baseball has been around for more than 125 years, so it makes sense there’s been all sorts of epic collapses. But all of the examples listed above happened within the last five years, proof that anything can happen in September.
The schedule favors the Pirates, who will have a chance to make up ground against their division foes. Even if they fall short in the division, the Pirates only remain 2.5-games out of the last National League wild-card spot.
Every series here on out is the most important series of the year, and I’ll be on hand this weekend in Milwaukee to cheer on the Bucs.
It’s almost September, and the Pirates are still very much in contention for the playoffs. And that’s a beautiful thing.