No, the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t going to be a factor in the division race for some time to come. But they have already made a difference in the National League Central race.

The Pirates haven’t been any great shakes against the Houston Astros, losing three games to them in Minute Maid Park, and they’re 2-4 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But the Astros and the Brewers are now in the last and next to the last places in the National League Central. That’s to say they’d be even worse off without their winning seasons against the Pirates. The Bucs will need to do better against these teams to amount to anything in the division.

But the Pittsburghers have done surprisingly well against two challengers for the division title, the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds. They just finished a three game sweep of the Cubs in PNC Park, after having done same to the Reds earlier this year.

This accounts for most of Cincinnati’s three and a half games out of first place. And the Cubs used to be in the mix for at least second place before their recent series with the Pirates; now they’re in fourth place, having slipped behind the winners.

Granted, these were home games; there is as yet no telling how well (or poorly) the Pirates will do on the road against these teams. But the fact that they are 3-0 in each season series at least represents a good start.

If the Bucs sweep the St. Louis Cardinals at home, the impact will be a “wash” as far as the top three contenders are concerned. But if they don’t, and the Cardinals win one or more games, it will just enhance the Redbirds’ lead over the rest of the division.

The Pirates aren’t yet making enough headway against weak teams to be champions. But they are doing well enough against nominally stronger opponents to be spoilers.


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