When looking at the results of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ recent games, it’s completely understandable to do a double take.
As hard as it may be to believe, the Pirates did indeed sweep the Milwaukee Brewers. Not only that, Pittsburgh did it on the road.
The Brewers home ballpark has been a nightmare setting for the Pirates in recent years. The Bucs came into this series with a 17-64 record in Milwaukee since 2007 and were facing a Brewers team that had a record above the .500 mark at home.
But the Pirates overcame their recent horrors in Milwaukee and swept the Brewers in a four-game series on the road—for the first time in franchise history.
That’s the biggest accomplishment surrounding this huge weekend story, however, this series also had huge implications when it comes to the Pirates’ postseason push.
Here’s what the sweep means:
Bucs entered Miller Park ice cold
The month of August has been a roller coaster ride — of sorts — for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh started off the month by losing a three-game series to the Atlanta Braves, but the Pirates followed it up by taking two of three in a pair of series against the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres.
They then traveled to the West Coast for trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco for a pair of three-game sets against the Dodgers and Giants. The Pirates went 5-1 on the road trip and were riding high.
However, it was short lived.
They returned home to Pittsburgh to play two key series against wild card contenders in the form of the Miami Marlins and the Houston Astros. But as quickly as Pittsburgh had made up ground on their successful road trip, they lost it by going 1-5 on their six-game home stand.
Going into the series in Milwaukee, it was inevitable fans were going to doubt the Pirates’ ability to play a stellar series on the road against the Brewers. Not only had the Pirates endured struggles at Miller Park in the last decade, but they had also been swept at Miller Park in their last series in July.
The four-game set was one that could make or break the Pirates season. They were — and currently are — in the middle of a wild card race, and a series loss to the Brewers would have only put Pittsburgh further behind teams like the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets and Marlins.
Though the odds may have not been in their favor, the Pirates put on a gritty performance in Milwaukee and outscored the Brewers, 20-12.
Pirates in prime position
Looking at the NL wildcard standings, it’s easy to notice that no team has taken control of a spot. The Pirates are one of five teams in the race and, out of all of them, Pittsburgh has the longest current winning streak. None of the five WC contending teams have won more than six of their last 10 games, and this race will likely come down to the last few series of the season.
The Pirates currently sit a half-game behind the Cardinals for the second wild card spot, while the Marlins and Mets sit 1.5 and 2.5 games back, respectively. The Giants hold the first wild card spot, but they have only a slim 2.5-game advantage over the Cardinals.
The Pirates find themselves with a tough test in the next three days as they travel to Wrigley Field to take on the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs.
Pittsburgh is 3-9 against the Cubs this season and have a 1-5 record on the road at Wrigley.
While the Pirates play in Chicago, the Cardinals will take on the Brewers at Miller Park, and the Marlins and Mets go head-to-head with the Marlins in Miami. The Giants have an off day Monday, but they’ll start a two-game series against Arizona in San Francisco tomorrow.
Pirates not giving up hope
The Pirates are, honestly, one of the more confusing teams in baseball. They’ve had stretches where they’ve been bad, and they’ve had stretches where they’ve been very good. A lot of people have counted them out on numerous occasions, but they are a resilient group. In August, they’ve been led by great pitching and a stellar offense, which they’ll look to continue into September so they can make a splash in October via a fourth consecutive appearance in the NL Wildcard game.
Image credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette