The surging Pittsburgh Pirates (78-69) continued their winning ways with a 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night. Pittsburgh has now won 7 of 8 games and are 14-7 since August 20.
Pittsburgh needed to and has taken advantage of a 13 game stretch where they play teams below .500 and all in last place. They are 7-1 so far through that stretch with two more games to go against the Cubs and three at home against the Red Sox.
The Pirates ability to hit continues to make them a dangerous team down the stretch. Pittsburgh had 14 hits in Friday’s win and their +32 run differential is tops in the division. The Pirates are 1st in the NL in OBP (.331), 2nd in runs (624), and 2nd in OPS (.733)
The Pirates are not a team that is reliant on just one or two guys. They’ve received sustained production from the likes of Jordy Mercer who had three hits and drove in three runs in Friday’s win.
Gerrit Cole picked up his ninth win, allowing five hits and striking out six. Cole has been good since returning from injury but the Pirates still need him to be better. Cole isn’t back to pitching at that level he was last September where he was dominant going into the stretch run and the playoffs. Francisco Liriano would without question be the Pirates starter in a potential wildcard play-in game.
The Pirates, though, are not ready to concede the division just yet with 15 games to go.
With Milwaukee (77-71) winning last night, the Pirates continued to hold a 1.5 game lead over the Brewers for the second wildcard spot and Pittsburgh is closer to the NL Central division lead, 2.5 games behind St. Louis Cardinals (81-67), than the top wildcard spot as the San Francisco Giants (82-65) have won four straight and are now just one game behind the LA Dodgers (83-64) for the NL West lead.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (81-67)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (78-69, 2.5 GB)
3. Milwaukee Brewers (77-71, 4 GB)

The Cardinals with 14 games remaining, have a favorable schedule the rest of the way with 8 at home and 6 away. The average winning percentage of opponents is .446.
Cardinals next 5 games
9/13 vs Colorado Rockies
9/14 vs Colorado Rockies
9/16 vs Milwaukee Brewers
9/17 vs Milwaukee Brewers
9/18 vs Milwaukee Brewers

The Pirates with 15 games remaining, play their next eight games at home, Cubs (2), Red Sox (3), Brewers (3) before finishing the season with seven road games vs the Braves (4) and Reds (3). The average winning percentage of opponents is .476.
Pirates next 5 games
9/13 vs Chicago Cubs
9/14 vs Chicago Cubs
9/16 vs Boston Red Sox
9/17 vs Boston Red Sox
9/18 vs Boston Red Sox

The Brewers have the toughest schedule of the three with 5 games remaining at home and 9 on the road. The average winning percentage of opponents is .492.
Brewers next 5 games
9/13 vs Cincinnati Reds
9/14 vs Cincinnati Reds
9/16 @ St. Louis Cardinals
9/17 @ St. Louis Cardinals
9/18 @ St. Louis Cardinals