The Pittsburgh Pirates boast a 61-44 record entering Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Though their record is good for top three in the league, they do play in the NL Central division alongside the absurd 67-39 Cardinals, putting them firmly in the lead for a NL Wildcard spot. The Pirates have been having a lot of fun playing on the diamond as of late, winning six of their last ten games, which have come against opponents with a record above .500. Pittsburgh has been a very tough team to beat at home thus far with a 35-18 record at PNC Park this season.
While the 2014 Silver Slugger Award Winner, Neil Walker, has slightly regressed from last season, he is still having a fantastic season, hitting .270 with an SLG of .420, including 10 homers and 42 RBIs. The second baseman becomes a free agent at the end of next year and it is no secret that the Pirates are already gearing to sign the 29-year old to an extension this offseason, which would bode well for their core going forward. On third base, 28-year old rookie Jung-ho Kang is in the running for NL Rookie of the Year after the righty and his .299 batting percentage have helped the Pirates achieved 61 wins so far.
There’s no question that when the Pirates are clicking, and they have been all year, they are a true contender that is one of the toughest teams to beat in the league. The remainder of the Pittsburgh Pirates schedule is generally lax, with 24 of their games coming against the NL’s worst teams in the Arizona Diamondbacks, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies. Over half of those games will be played at PNC Park, all but ensuring that the Pirates will finish with a top three record in the MLB. Regardless of the difficulty of the Pittsburgh Pirates schedule, they do have the firepower to thoroughly outplay the best teams that the league has to offer on a regular basis.
Graphic via fanduel
As the Pirates look to be a force to be reckoned with not only this season, but for seasons to come, veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett continues to be a large reason why. Though a serious elbow strain has kept him sidelined, with a 3.06 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 135.1 innings this season, the Pirates have already begun to attempt to change the mind of the 38-year old to put off retirement for at least one more season. He is set to return before the regular season ends and if his play is still considerably strong in addition to postseason success, perhaps the 2015 All-Star will decide to stay another year.
Graphic via rantsports