With Brewers Struggling, Now Is the Time for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Ryan GauleCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole tosses a ball back to the umpire during the seventh inning of the baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

For much of the first half of the 2014 regular season, the Pittsburgh Pirates looked lost as a team, falling as far out as nine games behind the Milwaukee Brewers on June 28.  

At that point, the Brewers owned a league-best 51-32 record, as they also led the reigning National League-champion St. Louis Cardinals by 6.5 games in the National League Central Division.  

The Brewers have been the biggest surprise in 2014, as they were coming off a terrible 2013 season in which they finished with a record of 74-88.  

Darren Hauck/Associated Press

Now, Milwaukee has come back down to Earth, and both the Cardinals and Pirates are knocking on the door.  The Brewers have lost five games in a row and eight of their last 10 overall.   

St. Louis has managed to pull into a tie for first place with Milwaukee, but Pittsburgh is on the verge of possibly making it a three-way tie.  

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Pirates enter a three-game showdown with the Cardinals having won seven of their last 10 games.  

Meanwhile, the main reason St. Louis is now tied with the Brewers is because of Milwaukee's poor play of late.  St. Louis has struggled too, having dropped six of its last 10 contests.  

Clearly, the Pirates have been the hottest team lately in their division, which is why they sit just two games behind both St. Louis and Milwaukee.  

Now, the Pirates need to show up ready to play in St. Louis more than ever.  

The last time the Pirates sat alone atop the standings in 2014 was April 4, just four games into the regular season. Gerrit Cole earned the victory that day as the Pirates pounded the Cardinals by a score of 12-2.  

Now, Cole has the opportunity to bring his team one game closer to the top, as he will take the mound in the first game against Lance Lynn and the Cardinals Monday.  

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

According to Caitlin Swieca of MLB.com, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a positive outlook on the remainder of the season.  

"We still see our best baseball ahead of us and believe the time is ripe for us. But we've also seen some not very good baseball from our club as well. We just have to limit those and stretch out those good runs," Matheny said.  

After seeing how well Pittsburgh has played of late, however, the time seems to be riper for them, and they give Matheny and his Cardinals another bad stretch this week.  

Although Milwaukee is still ahead of the Pirates, Pittsburgh's real concern right now is St. Louis, as the Brewers seem to be slowly fading away in the standings.  

This series marks the last time the Pirates and Cardinals will square off against each other in the regular season. That means these are the last three times that Pittsburgh can gain a full game directly by defeating St. Louis.  

However, the Pirates still have to play the Brewers three more times as well before the season ends, meaning they must continue to play well in order to make it back to the playoffs for the second straight season.  

Things are looking up for the Pirates, and a series victory against the Cardinals will bring them that much closer to the organization's first National League Central Division title ever.

Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference