The game hasn’t always been kind to the Pittsburgh Pirates over the last two decades, especially when it came to capturing at least 82 victories in a season, a benchmark it had not reached since 1992. The landmark victory was within sight early this year, as the squad secured its 81st win on Sept. 3 against the Milwaukee Brewers. It would take the Pirates five games to finally clinch the elusive accomplishment, but on Sept. 9, they guaranteed the franchise its first winning season in 21 years with a hard-fought 1-0 road victory over the Texas Rangers.
While Pittsburgh fans were surely ecstatic, the team itself is focused on breaking a different streak: a 20-year playoff drought. The Pirates are currently in the driver’s seat in the National League Wild Card race, sitting a game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds for the top spot through Sept. 9 and eight games in front of the Washington Nationals, who are next in line for a berth. But in order to avoid a one-game playoff and ensure an all-important bye into the NLDS, they will need to catch the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, who currently own a one-game advantage.
Other than the NL Central, little is in doubt in the National League, as the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers both own 12-game leads in their respective divisions. The American League, however, is a much different story.
Wild Card Race
The Tampa Bay Rays, who only recently owned a commanding lead in the Wild Card—and even briefly enjoyed a lead in the AL East—have struggled offensively as of late, falling 7.5 games out of the division lead and barely clinging to a 1.5-game lead over the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles for the second Wild Card spot. Battling with Indians and Orioles to grab one of the league’s two Wild Card slots are the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals, who are three and four games off the pace, respectively.
While Boston looks to have sewn up the AL East, the other division races are very much alive, as the surging Indians have closed the gap in the AL Central to come within 4.5 games of the Detroit Tigers, and the Rangers—who currently sit atop the AL Wild Card standings—are still fighting to overtake the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics, who are trying to hold onto their two-game advantage.
With less than a month of regular-season action remaining, the dramatic race for a spot in the MLB playoffs is wide open and destined for an epic finish.