By Matthew Kruth, The Burgh Blog Writer, @theburghblog_mk
PITTSBURGH – As the Pirates prepare to finish up their first west coast swing of the season and coming back to begin a series with the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates lost their first series with the Redlegs earlier in the season at Great American Ballpark.
The Pirates have started the season with a 6-3 record against the teams in their division. They have 67 interdivisional games left on the year, and 15 of those come consecutively starting Friday night in Pittsburgh.
Last year, the Bucs went 34-42 against the NL Central teams. The team was especially bad on the road for these matchups, going 13-24. If the Pirates want to improve their win total and win the division, they must have a better showing against the teams in their division.
Over the next couple weeks, the Bucs will have a chance to improve their good start against these teams with two series against baseball’s hottest team, the Cubs, as well as two series against the Reds, and one against the Cardinals.
The Pirates offense is clicking right now, and both the rotation and bullpen is showing signs of getting on the right track. Andrew McCutchen went off against the Rockies so far and looked like the player Pirates fans expect him to be. Role players like John Jaso and Sean Rodriguez are keeping up their torrid pace to begin the season.
The Pirates will play their first home and away series against the Cubs, and it is imperative that they come away from those two series having won at least three games. Unless something happens to the Cubs (i.e. injuries, Jake Arrieta not being good, or the offense going stone cold), they will be competing for the division title all the way until the end of the season. It is important to keep them within reasonable distance in the standings, and seeing as the Pirates are already 3.5 GB of Chicago, every game against them will be of the utmost importance.
This is a stretch of games that could seriously put the team on track to compete the rest of the year, or it could set the team up for another uphill battle to reach the playoffs. For the Pirates, this upcoming 15-game stretch may be the most important two and a half weeks of the season.