The Pirates take on the Cincinnati Reds this weekend in what could be the biggest series of the year. The two teams meet two more times this year — in Cincinnati in early September, and in Pittsburgh in late September — but considering the current standings, this is a key weekend for the Pirates to stay in the race.
Cincinnati has a 3.5 game lead over the Pirates. Best case scenario, the Pirates get a sweep and finish the weekend half a game out of first place. Worst case, they get swept and finish 6.5 game back. A 2-1 series win allows them to pick up one game, while a 2-1 series loss puts them another game back.
The Pirates might be catching the Reds at the right time. Cincinnati will be without Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Deven Mesoraco this weekend. And yeah, they’ve been winning without those guys, but they’ve also been playing the worst teams in the majors. The Reds also won’t be throwing Johnny Cueto. Meanwhile, the Pirates will be throwing their top three starters: Wandy Rodriguez on Friday, James McDonald on Saturday, and A.J. Burnett now moving up to Sunday.
A series win on the road in Cincinnati could provide a big boost for the Pirates. They follow that with an 11 game homestand, which is right in the middle of 20 games in a row without a day off. Beating the Reds to start that stretch could provide a huge boost, with the Pirates carrying momentum back home for the bulk of that 20 game stretch.
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**Prospect Watch: Tabata Has Four Hits; Nick Evans, Andrew Lambo Start Rehab.+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.