The Pittsburgh Pirates remember the 2013 season, especially how they had to win big series against division rivals in the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals down the stretch to punch their first playoff ticket in over two decades.
They won’t be able to run and hide from the Reds and Cardinals in 2014, as unlike last season, Clint Hurdle‘s team is going to be tested right away against the National League Central. How the Pirates fare right off the bat could be a telling sign of how this team will do in 2014.
The Pirates schedule to start the season faces a heavy dose of the Cardinals as they face three series with St. Louis by May 11.
The Bucs play the Cardinals and Reds 26 times combined before the All-Star break, just 13 times after. That makes getting off to a good start almost imperative.
However, it’s not all bad news to start the season for the Pirates as 23 of their first 40 games are at PNC Park, a place where they went 50-31 a season ago.
In addition, only 17 of their first 40 games come against teams that were .500 or better in 2013. That’s the 11th-weakest slate to start the season, based on last year’s records of any team in the National League.
Finally, the Pirates have a good chance to take command of the division early on if they take care of business as the Bucs’ first 26 games come against National League Central competition.
This Pirates team hasn’t exactly gotten off to hot starts the past few seasons.
This year they might not have a choice.