One can say that PNC hosted some pretty important series over the last year, but nothing compares to this as the Pirates have a shot at taking first place from their opponent. (Worth noting: The Bucs did have an opportunity like this last season, but that series took place in Cincinnati.)
The last time Pittsburgh witnessed something like this, you would have to look all the way back to July 10th-13th of 1997 when the Bucs started the second half of the season in first place by a game over the Houston Astros, who they would face in a four game series. Houston took the first two to take first back, but the Pirates responded with the “Combined No-Hitter / Walk-off in the 10th inning Game” and a victory in the final game to reclaim first place. They would end up finishing the season in second place by five games.
During the back-to-back-to-back division championship years, The Pirates experienced similar series around the same time of year. In 1990, the Bucs held a ½ game lead over the Mets going into a 3-game series at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates would go on and win the three games and would never relinquish first again as they would win the division by four games.
In 1991, the Pirates jumped out to an early 9-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Bucs would slip in late July and the Cardinals would cut the deficit to five games entering a four game set in Pittsburgh. The Cards would take the first game to cut the lead to four, but the Bucs would respond by taking the final three, culminating in the famous Barry Bonds walk-off in the final game where he lifted his arms in celebration right after making contact with the ball. That gave the Pirates a seven game cushion which ended in a division title by 14 games.
1992 had a similar story with different players. The Pirates were tied atop the standings with the Montreal Expos on (get this) July 29th, 21 years to the day. The Pirates would then open up a stretch where they played the Cardinals eight times in eleven days with a two game set with the Mets in-between. The Pirates would win those eleven games, which included four wins in their final at-bat, to pull ahead by 3 ½ games. They would win the division by 9.
With that being said, manager, Clint Hurdle knows there are plenty of games left to make up ground if a series would go awry, “Were best served going one game at a time. One pitch at a time through that one game at a time.” Cardinals’ manager, Mike Matheny has the same view. “We can’t control three days from now. We control what we do to prepare for this game and tomorrow we’ll get ready for the first one. It makes for good, consistent baseball”
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