Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Andrew McCutchen is bound for stardom. Is his team bound for the playoffs?
Possibly the biggest surprise of baseball's first half besides the also-resurgent Indians, the Pirates sit just a game back of Milwaukee and St. Louis in the NL Central, tied in the loss column.
Behind budding superstar Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, the NL's RBI leader among second baseman, the Pirates have quietly managed to stay in contention through 90 games.
It has actually been their pitching, however, that has given them a fighting chance. All-Star Kevin Correia has 11 wins despite a 4.01 ERA, while Jeff Karstens and Paul Maholm both boast ERA's under 3.00.
Joel Hanrahan has yet to blow a save in 26 chances and Daniel McCutchen, who was acquired along with Karstens and Jose Tabata from the Yankees in 2008, has pitched well in a set-up role.
If the Pirates pitchers can continue to pitch the way they have, this team has a legitimate shot. The Brewers, Cardinals and Reds (four games back of the lead) all have more potent lineups and, maybe more importantly, issues in their rotations.
The Cardinals miss Adam Wainwright, the Reds can't get their young pitchers in order outside of Johnny Cueto and Zach Greinke has struggled with his new surroundings in Milwaukee.
I personally think the Brewers will win the Central, but let's not forget about the Pirates. I would not be surprised at all to see them within a few games of the lead when September rolls around and as anybody who follows baseball knows, anything can happen in a month.
At the very least, they should be able to snap their streak of 18 straight seasons with a losing record. That alone is an accomplishment for this franchise.