Four games into a five-game series with the Cardinals, the consensus best team in baseball entering last weekend, the Pirates have taken all four games, and breezed by St. Louis for the NL Central lead. And now they have a chance to sweep a five-game series.
That feat's so rare that no one was even tweeting about the possibility shortly after the Pirates finished off the Cards on Wednesday night, with Mark Melancon working a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, his fifth of the year and third since then-NL saves leader Jason Grilli got injured last week, and there's scant wondering about it on the Internet. The 1927 Yankees did it twice, but they a) were the 1927 Yankees and b) swept a sub-.500 White Sox team and an awful, 51-103 Red Sox team in those series. (Update: The 2006 Yankees swept a pretty good Red Sox team, Ben Kabak notes.) The Cardinals are a lot better than those clubs.
But the Pirates, not the Cardinals, have been the better team throughout this series, and won in four different ways. The Pirates led 4-0 after the first in the first game, then tacked on a five-run seventh in an easy 9-2 win; they endured until a walk-off single in the 11th of the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader; they got seven scoreless innings from call-up Brandon Cumpton in a 6-0 win in the night game; and they came back from three different two-run deficits to beat the Cardinals before a genuinely raucous PNC Park crowd tonight.
St. Louis has issues, sure, with Yadier Molina on the DL and just 10 runs on the board in its last seven games, all losses. Foremost among them, though, is the Pirates' 2.5-game lead in the Central—which belongs to the team with the best record in baseball.
Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP