The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently 10-3 against their NL Central opponents. Although they sit 2.5 games back from the leading St. Louis Cardinals, this is a great start in the right direction.
Through the last 10 seasons, the Pirates have only had one winning record against NL Central teams. That year was 2013, when they finished 45-31 against their intradivisional opponents. It was the same year baseball was officially revived in Pittsburgh when the club broke a 21 year playoff drought with a NL Wild Card berth.
For comparison, in 2018 when the Pirates had the second highest win total in baseball (98), they finished 34-42 against their divisional opponents.
While the 2018 season is only a month and a week old, the Bucs are winning the necessary games against their divisional foes.
Games against the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals obviously have added meaning but in a sense it’s even more important to win the games against the last place Cincinnati Reds.
Let’s look back at how each series vs an NL Central opponent has faired thus far.
St. Louis Cardinals
After Pittsburgh led the NL Central for much of the first month of the season, the Red Birds have since taken the top seat. However, the Pirates had the Cardinals’ number, sweeping their three game series, which was also the back-end of a five game winning streak for the Bucs.
The Pirates then outscored the Cardinals 11-2 over the next two games, which included Nick Kingham’s near perfect major league debut.
Miller Park has been a house of horrors for the Pirates over the last decade but this team has proven different than previous years. In their most recent series, the Bucs won two-of-three against the Brew Crew.
Pirates hitters took advantage of the launching pad that is Miller Park, hitting seven home runs (one inside-the-park) in the weekend where they scored 21 runs.
They also got solid starting pitching in the set with the Brewers. In game one, Kingham excelled through five innings in the 6-4 win. Jameson Taillon offered five innings of one-run ball in game two despite not having his best stuff. The bullpen ended up giving the game to Milwaukee in the final three frames.
In game three, Chad Kuhl delivered what may have been his best professional start, throwing seven shutout innings, while fanning eight. Reliever Richard Rodriguez then proceeded to strikeout six of the seven batters he faced to close out the 9-0 victory.
The Pirates were on Chicago’s North Side for the fourth series of the year. It was an up-and-down series but the club pulled away with two wins.
Francisco Cervelli clubbed a three-run bomb en route to an 8-5 victory in game one before the Pirates dropped the second contest 13-5.
Pittsburgh clinched the series in game three with a 6-1 victory after Trevor Williams held the Cubs to just one run over six innings of work. This was a big win because it solidified that the Pirates were, in fact, playing decent baseball.
The Bucs brought out the bats in the four game set with the Reds, scoring 28 runs to end the seasons first home stand.
The Pirates won the first two games by a combined score of 19-5 before dropping the third game 7-4. Taillon cleaned up the fourth game with his first career complete game shutout in a 5-0 win.
Winning games against the Reds is expected as they currently have one of the worst records (8-26) in baseball. However, sweeping the Cardinals and winning a series at Miller Park have not been overly common occurrences in past seasons.