Upcoming Stretch is Vital for the Pittsburgh Pirates

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 09: Elias Diaz #32 and Felipe Vazquez #73 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate a win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on May 9, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the White Sox 6-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 09: Elias Diaz #32 and Felipe Vazquez #73 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate a win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on May 9, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the White Sox 6-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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On Friday, the Pittsburgh Pirates will start a vital 22 game stretch that could set the tone for the entire summer

The Pittsburgh Pirates wake up on the morning of May 10th owning a 21-16 record. This puts the Bucs just .5 games out of first place in the National League Central Division and in a three-way tie for the second National League Wild Card spot.

It goes without saying that the Pirates have been one of Major League Baseball’s biggest surprises through the season’s quarter mark. Now, the team is coming up on a vital 22 game stretch. This 22 game stretch could set the tone for the Pirates’ summer and the remainder of their 2018 season.

This 22 game stretch is broken up into a 12 game and 10 game stretch. Each of these two stretches will be vital, but for different reasons.

This stretch will start with a nine-game homestand. This weekend, the Pirates will welcome the San Francisco Giants to town before having a brief two-game set against the Chicago White Sox and a four-game series against the San Diego Padres.

These three teams currently have a combined record of 41-67. After those three series, the Pirates travel to Cincinnati for a three-game set against the 10-27 Reds.

This stretch sets the Pirates up nicely to stockpile wins in the next two weeks. Other than the 19-18 Giants, each of the team’s next four opponents own a sub-.500 record. And the Giants are a team that many people, myself included, expect to finish the season below .500.

There is no reason the Pirates should not go at least 8-4 in this stretch. Not only have the Pirates done well against sub-.500 teams this season owning a 13-4 record, they’re also 10-4 at PNC Park where nine of these 12 games will be played.

Following their trip to Cincinnati, the Pirates will return home to start a 10 game stretch against two teams they must compete with if they wish to reach the postseason – the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.

This 10 game stretch will start with a three-game series at home against the Cardinals and one against the Cubs. The Bucs will then travel to Busch Stadium for the first time this season to play four against the Red Birds.

The first 12 games of this upcoming 22 game stretch is vital due to the Pirates playing poor competition putting them in a good position to stockpile wins. While the second 10 games of the stretch is vital due to them playing teams they need to beat to reach the postseason.

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If the Pirates can beat up on poor teams such as the Giants, White Sox, Padres, and Reds and then follow that up by going at least 5-5 in a 10 game stretch against the Cardinals and Cubs, they will enter the second week of June toward the top – if not at the top – of the National League Central Division. If that happens, then they put themselves in a position to spend the summer competing for a postseason berth.

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