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N. L. Central Update: Pirates Not Going Away

Grilli and the Bucs remain hot on the Cards' heels.

Grilli and the Bucs remain hot on the Cards’ heels.

The post All-Star Break has been a scary time for the Pittsburgh Pirates in recent season. This year, the Pirates are determined not to fade late in the season and miss the playoff Though the Bucs have lost two in a row going into Saturday’s game, the Pirates are hanging around the lead in the N. L. Central at 60-41.

Last night, Pittsburgh ran into a good young pitcher in a  2-0 loss to the Miami Marlins on Friday night in Henderson Alvarez. Alvarez pitched six strong innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Placido Polanco made that move pay off with an infield single with the bases loaded to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. The Pirates had won four in a row before these last two losses and need to win a couple in Miami to go into a huge four game series with the division leading St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals are 2.5 games ahead of the Pirates with a 62-38 record, the best in Major League Baseball. The Cards lost to the East leading Atlanta Braves on Friday behind a great pitching performance from Mike Minor. The Braves needed a good outing from a pitching staff depleted a bit by injuries lately. The Cards just seem to roll along, having won seven of ten. They want to keep pace with Pittsburgh the rest of the weekend. If they can maintain the 2.5 game lead, then a split in the four game series means they still have a 2.5 game lead but four games are then off the schedule between the two. That would be advantage Cards. And if the Pirates take three of four, the Cards keep the lead.

The Cincinnati Reds are hoping to take advantage of the two teams in front of them going head to head this week. But to take advantage, the Reds need to beat a red hot Los Angeles Dodgers team this weekend. The Dodgers beat the Reds on Friday 2-1 behind Clayton Kershaw. Hanley Ramirez provided the offense with a two-run homer off of Homer Bailey. The Reds will face the struggling San Diego Padres while the Cards-Pirates series is taking place. So the Reds could really tighten this race up.

The big news in Chicago Cubs land is the unloading of Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees. This takes a big bat out of the Cubs lineup for the rest of this season, which makes their job as spoilers a bit tougher. But this move was about the future and gets rid of an aging player with a huge contract. The Cubs are loaded with minor league talent and need to make room. The Cubs get a single A pitcher in Corey Black from the Yanks. Soriano has 17 home runs on the season and the Cubs will miss that in the short term.

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