Aug 24, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) is greeted by first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) after hitting a two-run homer in the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Back In Playoff Hunt, Although Division Title Remains A Dream

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It feels harsh to mention after an encouraging weekend in Milwaukee, but the Pittsburgh Pirates really could’ve used a sweep at Miller Park.

With just five weeks to go in the regular season, the Bucs (67-63) trail the first-place Brewers (72-58) by five games in the National League Central. The deficit would’ve been a more manageable three if the Pirates could’ve shrugged off an early deficit for the third day in a row.

Now, with 32 games to play, it’s a stretch to say the Bucs are true contenders for the division title. With the Brewers and Cardinals (70-59) battling it out near the top of the Central, the NL wild-card chase remains a more feasible goal for the black and gold.

But let’s not bury the lead. Pittsburgh accomplished a lot by taking two out of three from Milwaukee, including turning the page on an ugly seven-game losing streak that threatened to capsize the season.

With a rare series victory in Wisconsin, the Pirates have climbed within 1 1/2 games of the Giants (68-61) for the league’s final playoff spot. The Braves (68-63) remain in the way, but a second consecutive postseason berth no longer feels like a mere dream as it did early last week.

Moreover, for as important as the Brewers series was, the upcoming three-gamer against St. Louis at PNC Park carries even more significance. The Pirates are 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals prior to Monday night’s series opener, so a couple more wins would go a long way this week.

The Redbirds could be vulnerable at the moment, as they are coming off a series loss to last-place Philadelphia over the weekend. Also, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole are scheduled to start the first two games of this week’s Central showdown, giving Pittsburgh a matchup edge until Adam Wainwright gets the call Wednesday afternoon.

So the most important part of the season continues for the Pirates, aided by a positive performance in Milwaukee. If they make the playoffs, it’s unlikely they’ll avoid the winner-take-all wild-card game, but beggars can’t be choosers at this point.

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