After breaking their painfully long playoff drought a couple of years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates had officially arrived as perennial contenders in the National League. Despite coming up short that season in the NLDS against the division rival Cardinals, not to mention last year when they fell to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants in the NL Wild Card Game, the Pirates look like they have enough ammo for a deep postseason run this time around.
The Pirates will have an intriguing opportunity to further solidify that sentiment when they host two fellow contenders in the upcoming week, particularly the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans will also have an intriguing opportunity being able to see two potential playoff preview matchups in the beginning of August, although Pirates tickets might be a little pricey. In fact, their upcoming pair of games with the Cubs is yielding an average ticket price of $61.35 (with a get-in price of less than $25 for both contests), which isn’t too bad, but their series with the Dodgers sees the average ticket price clocking in at $115.08 for the three-game set. Furthermore, the get-in price exceeds $30 for the final two games of this series, which is pretty much par for the course, as tickets to see the Dodgers in action usually command a higher price-tag, even as the road team.
At this current juncture in time, the Pirates are right where they want to be in the NL Central. They might not be able to catch the first-place Cardinals at the top of the division, but they are a very desirable 61-43 on the season, good enough for the top NL Wild Card berth. In other words, another year of postseason ball is definitely within the Bucs’ grasp with just two months to go.
One key item that could play a pivotal role in Pittsburgh’s outlook the rest of the way is how they replace veteran starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, who was recently injured and will miss approximately four weeks. To help fill this large void, the Pirates picked up left-hander J.A. Happ from the Seattle Mariners, hoping the veteran southpaw’s return to the NL sparks a resurgence. After all, Happ won the 2009 Rookie of the Year award with the Phillies, and remained solid during his days with the Astros while they were still National League residents.
In any event, Pittsburgh truly does have a deep pitching rotation. Gerrit Cole has blossomed in 2015 as a legitimate ace, making the All-Star team for his outstanding efforts and is even in the league-lead for wins. In addition, Francisco Liriano has looked like an ace at times, capable of dominating any opposing lineup on any given night with his overpowering arsenal. The x-factor could be veteran Charlie Morton, who has had success before and is still trying to get settled in after missing the majority of the campaign with an injury.
Pitching is key, and we’ll see just how reliable it can be when taking on a couple of fellow contenders this week. These two series will certainly serve as a measuring stick for the Pirates.