When the Pirates beat the Cardinals four times in a row at the end of July and beginning of August, what made the series memorable wasn't just that it put the Pirates in first place at the trade deadline but rather that it felt like the Pirates were making a declarative statement that they belonged in the NL Central race along with the Cardinals and Reds. What's been lacking in the weeks sense that homestand ended is that same sense of seizing the opportunity. The Pirates haven't necessarily played badly, but the Central has been there for the taking and all the Pirates really did for the last three weeks of August was make sure that no one else took it from them.
With the Cardinals back in PNC Park this weekend, that sense of declaration is back. The Pirates followed up Friday's big win with an even bigger one on Saturday. They blasted Lance Lynn all over the ballpark for 4+ innings. AJ Burnett was dominant; the run that the Cardinals scored in the third inning was really the only time they threatened to score off of him all night. Every Pirate had a hit except for Andrew McCutchen, which felt strange and re-assuring at the same time. Russell Martin had the biggest night, scoring twice and driving in three runs with his game-breaking home run in the bottom of the third. Jose Tabata and Marlon Byrd both had two hits, a run scored, and an RBI. Neil Walker had three hits and an RBI. AJ Burnett himself had a huge rally-extending RBI single that opened the scoring in the second.
As I'm typing this up, the clock has already turned over to midnight. That means it's September. It's September, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are alone in first place in the NL Central.