Can the Pittsburgh Pirates Stay Above .500?

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 8: James McDonald #53 and Rod Barajas #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talk against the Chicago Cubs during the game on September 8, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

On July 18, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Colorado Rockies 9-6 and moved into a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Reds for the NL Central. Though the victory was the second of what would become a five-game winning streak, their time in first place would end the next day with a Reds' victory on their off-day.

The Pirates continued to play well despite losing ground to the streaking Reds, claiming fifteen wins in their first twenty-five games following the All-Star break, and on August 8 stood at a season-best sixteen games above .500. With two months remaining in the season, it seemed that not only would the Pirates have their first winning season in two decades but they also had a legitimate chance at a playoff berth.

Now? Not so much.

In the just over a month since that season-high, the Pirates have absolutely collapsed. Dropping twenty of their last twenty-nine games (including a series sweep this weekend at the hands of the lowly Chicago Cubs) the Pirates now sit at 72-67, just five games above .500 and eleven games out of first place. The team still has a shot at the second wild card thanks to the similarly struggling St. Louis Cardinals, but must turn things around quickly.

The Bucs need to play just .434 baseball---claiming ten of their final twenty-three games---to complete their first winning season since 1992. For a team that has played just .310 baseball for the last month, that may be easier said than done.

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