Nearly 22 years after being eliminated from the 1992 NLCS by the Atlanta Braves, and consequently enduring a plethora of losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates returned to the scene of the crime Tuesday night and poetically clinched their second consecutive postseason berth. Following the Milwaukee Brewers’ 3-1 loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates took care of business at Turner Field, pulling out a 3-2, come-from-behind win.
Going into Wednesday’s games, the Pirates held a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants for the top spot in the National League’s Wild Card race. They also own the tiebreaker in the head-to-head matchup, should the team’s finish in equal standing. The Giants fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, allowing the Pirates to create some separation.
But with the way this team is playing, winning the NL Central isn’t out of the question. In fact, with the St. Louis Cardinals losing Tuesday to the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates pulled to within 1.5 games of the lead.
As center fielder Andrew McCutchen told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the plan is to stay focused on the task at hand:
For us, it’s good to celebrate, it’s fun. But we’re still trying to take care of business. We work as a team. That’s what we’re going to continue to keep doing. Work as a team, have each other’s back. That’s why we are where we are now. Good to celebrate tonight, show up tomorrow and keep winning.”
The Pirates finish the season on the road and will have to overcome a 35-41 road record this year if they are to seriously challenge for the division title. With an 8-2 record in the team’s last 10 games, as well as winning 15 of a remarkable 18 games since being swept in St. Louis entering September, the Pirates are clicking at a very opportune time.
Consequently, Atlanta has taken a nosedive since entering September. The Braves are a horrific 4-16 during the league’s final calendar month, which includes the team’s current five-game slide and 1-9 mark in its last 10 games.
With two games left against the Braves and then a critical three-game set to finish up the year against the Reds, the Pirates need to capitalize on these struggling teams in order to keep pace with the Cardinals.
But with so much focus on the present, some Pirates, like first baseman Ike Davis, are allowing a glimpse of what could be to creep into the conversation, as per Tom Singer of MLB.com:
We don’t yet know where we’ll get in. But we are in. Just think: We now have a chance to win the World Series.”