82 wins? How about the postseason? A division title? If anyone told you back in the spring that the Pittsburgh Pirates would be in the hunt for a playoff spot as the final third of the season began, you would dismiss that person for being crazy, despite their overwhelming optimism.
The celebration planned for a winning regular season has been downgraded to a standing ovation. The Pirates are in a pennant race, and anyone knows that any Pittsburgh sports fan will demand a postseason birth when they realize their club is in the hunt.
It's August 7th. The Pirates are 20 wins away from reaching a milestone 20 years in the making. Any pessimist who may have had any doubt, waiting for this team to collapse like it did last year has to be coming around now. Specifically, those being the ones anticipating another losing season to cap off two decades of mediocrity. Doesn't mean the pessimists who say the Pirates won't make the playoffs won't start coming out of the woodwork. But that's just a part of any sport, right?
Moving onto the pennant talk, the Pirates are 3.5 games out of first place, and are holding onto that second wild card spot in the National League. The Pirates are a league best 34-16 at home and were 16-8 in the month of July. The schedule provides a higher level of difficulty as they enter the final act of the 2012 season. In August, the Pirates have 17 home dates on their schedule.
So the next question being, how many wins can this team have once October rolls around? 90? 100? Would you meet me in the middle at 95? The original 82 is a disappointment in anyone's book. The schedule has many dates against divisional foes. The dates against the Reds and Cardinals are the most important. The Pirates final second to last series is against the Reds at PNC Park. They say the three games are already sold out. The Cardinals are a team that made an improbable run to a World Series title last season. They could sneak up on the Pirates in the wild card race. The games against Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee are gimmes for the Pirates, especially the Astros.
Sit back and enjoy the ride Pirate fans, it may be a little bumpy at times, but it will be an exciting race to a division title or wild card birth. .500 means little to nothing now. A playoff birth means everything.