This recap is late coming because I'm just not sure there's much to say about yesterday's game: Ryan Vogelsong absolutely dominated the Pirates, and any chance that the Pirates had to comeback was spoiled by AJ Burnett being left on the mound for an inning too long. That's pretty much it. The Pirates had an opportunity over the weekend to finish their road trip with a big exclamation point, and instead they lost two games with their two best pitchers on the mound and will head home tied for first place in the NL Central.
I get that there's something of a sense that the Pirates leaving games on the table down the stretch here with the division hanging in the balance is a very "Piratesy" thing to do. That it's this year's version of "THE COLLAPSE," now that a similar collapse to the one that we saw last year doesn't appear to be coming. It's certainly true that the Pirates' lives would be much easier right now if they had a win in Colorado, an extra win against St. Louis, an extra win against Arizona, and an extra win against the Giants in the bank right now, but now you've suddenly jumped the Pirates to 80 wins and that puts them two wins clear of even the Braves.
My point is this: in a narrowly decided division, which the NL Central is almost certain to be at this point, the difference between the team that wins and the team that loses is going to be very narrow. If the NL Central winner has 95 wins and the second place team has 94 wins, that means that you only have to dig through the 68 losses to find one or two bad ones to play the "what if" game. Whoever wins the Central, the two teams that come up short will have more than their share of games to wonder about. That holds true for the Pirates, the Reds, and the Cardinals all the same.
When the Pirates set off for their west coast trip, I figured that they needed four wins to stay in first place. They got four wins, they're still in first place. The details of those four wins are unimportant, because the last month of baseball in the NL Central is going to be wild. The Pirates have 32 games left. Six of them are against the Cardinals and six of them are against the Reds. The Cardinals also have 32 games left; six against the Pirates are seven against the Reds. The Reds have 31 games left, and 13 of them are against the Pirates and Reds. The Cardinals don't play a team other than the Pirates or Reds until September 9th.
Whatever it is that will decide the NL Central is yet to come.