The month of August begins Thursday and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place. The Bucs haven't been able to say that since 1992, which also is the most recent season they even finished over .500. The Bucs would ease two decades of frustration with two well-played months — and even if they went 18-38 they'd still finish with a winning record — but they don't want to settle.
After a pair of victories against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night, the Bucs jumped the Cards in the NL Central standings and have the best record in the majors. Via the Associated Press:
''We want more,'' manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates won the opener 2-1 in 11 innings when Alex Presley lined an RBI single off the glove of left-hander Kevin Siegrist. They cruised 6-0 in the second game, with Andrew McCutchen hitting a home run off the glove of outfielder Matt Holliday and rookie Brandon Cumpton pitching three-hit ball over seven innings.
It's the Pirates' first doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals since 1978. That's even before the We Are Fam-i-ly team.
The Pirates don't appear to be the kind of team that's going to fold, like they did in 2011 and 2012 after strong starts. Bucs blog Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? sees things the same way:
What I can tell you is this: this feels real. Not in a, "The Pirates third-order winning percentage is THIS and their playoff odds are THIS and so put your talk about the collapse in your hat and keep it there for two more weeks" kind of way, but in a, "Holy crap, the team with the best record in the baseball just showed up at PNC Park and is getting blown off of the field by the Pirates and it's practically August and the Pirates have the best record in baseball and are playing as well now as they have been at any point in this season and oh-my-goodness-this-is-something-that's-actually-happening" kind of way.
The Pirates have caught the Cardinals at the right moment; St. Louis has dropped six straight games, scoring five runs over their past 56 innings. Worse: Star catcher Yadier Molina is headed to the 15-day DL because of a strained right knee, an injury that's troubled him for weeks. He left the second game in the fourth inning.
Despite the struggles, GM John Mozeliak said not to expect big activity at the trade deadline. The Cards are good enough to recover. But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll finish ahead of the Pirates.