Spending 44 days in first place in the NL Central this season, being the current wild card leader and having only 32 more games scheduled in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are doing only what is prudent: They are selling playoff tickets.
Coolstandings.com gives them a 96.7 percent chance of making the playoffs which, on Aug. 27, sounds awfully definite, even for a franchise that hasn't finished with a winning record since 1992. Not since the days of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke and Jim Leyland have the Bucs tasted postseason celebratory champagne and mass-produced light beer. They need only six victories to assure themselves of an over-.500 season, though actually clinching a postseason spot will take a little longer.
And while manager Clint Hurdle isn't about to go out on a limb and talk specifics regarding a postseason pitching rotation, he did hint about it recently when addressing how Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett have been performing. Via MLB.com:
After Liriano and Burnett went seven strong innings each for back-to-back wins in San Diego, Hurdle offered this:
"When they are on their game, they can be a force. And they can beat a good team."
They will come across plenty of good teams even before October. Their next mutual challenge will be the Cardinals, whom they will face Friday and Saturday nights at PNC Park.
"I just like the way we're going about our business, throwing our best two guys back to back," Hurdle said. "We're trying to get something done."
Season ticket holders have until Sept. 6 to return paid invoices to the team. This season has flown by in a way, yet it certainly doesn't seem like yesterday that the Pirates were in the playoffs.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this post identified Bobby Bonilla as being in the top photo.