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Pirates First to 50, Pace NL Central

The Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate win No. 51 in walk-off fashion.

The Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate win No. 51 in walk-off fashion.

The Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team in the majors to record 50 wins Saturday night, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 at PNC Park.

Clint Hurdle’s side wasted no time recording win No. 51 either, beating those same Brewers 2-1 in 14 innings Sunday to complete a sweep of the series.

The sight of the Pirates at the top of the majors comes as a surprise to many, particularly as preseason odds had the team slated to finish fourth in the NL Central this season. But against all odds, the club has continued to ascend in the standings, taking advantage of both the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds slipping ever so slightly.

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates kick-started the weekend with a 10-3 drubbing of the Brewers on Friday night before hitting the 50-win mark on Saturday in a much tighter affair.

20130630_NL_CentralSunday’s game started with less promise as the Brewers took an early 1-0 lead on Logan Schafer’s sacrifice in the second. The heavens opened shortly after, sending both teams to the clubhouse for 2 hours, 20 minutes.

When the game finally resumed it was slow going until the Pirates tied things up in the eighth on a single by Andrew McCutcheon. Things slowed down again as the game entered extra innings, with the scoreboard unbothered until the bottom of the 14th, when Russell Martin single to centerfield, allowing Gaby Sanchez to score the game-winning run.

The 14-inning victory marked Pittsburgh’s ninth straight win, its longest such streak since winning 10 in a row back in 2004. Milwaukee has now lost five consecutive and six-of-seven, leaving the club at the foot of the division standings, three games back of the fourth-place Chicago Cubs.

Whilst it’s a little too early to truly get excited about the Pirates run, Pittsburgh fans certainly have something to remain optimistic about; according to ESPN’s Buster Olney via the Elias Sports Bureau, since Major League Baseball adopted its 162-game schedule in 1962, no team that was 21 games above .500 after 81 games failed to finish the season below .500. Pittsburgh is 21 games above .500 after 81 games. That equates to good news for a ball club in search of its first winning season since 1992.

After a miserable weekend saw the club fall further behind at the foot of the NL Central, Milwaukee (32-48, 13-25 road) looks to turn its road trip around this week with a visit to the Washington Nationals (41-40, 22-16 home).

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Washington Nationals odds for 7/1/13 are available now.

Pittsburgh (51-30, 28-13 home) enjoys a day off on Monday before welcoming in-state rivals the Philadelphia Phillies (39-44, 20-26 road) for a three-game series commencing Tuesday.

Carlos Beltran celebrates after hitting a home run on Sunday, but the Cardinals fall to the Rangers.

Carlos Beltran celebrates after hitting a home run on Sunday, but the Cardinals fall to the Rangers.

St. Louis Cardinals at Oakland Athletics

Having shared the spoils in the first two games of the series, St. Louis began Sunday’s rubber game against the Oakland Athletics the right way, with Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig collecting home runs in the first inning to put the Cardinals up 3-0. The A’s came right back though, adding two runs in the second.

Matt Carpenter homered in the second before Beltran added another run in the frame, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. The side was unable to hold-off Oakland once again though, yielding a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning before the A’s took the lead for good on a two-run homer from Jed Lowrie in the fourth that left the score 6-5. Josh Donaldson – who reached base four times in the game – added an insurance run with a homer in the seventh.

The 7-5 defeat condemned the Cardinals to a series loss, adding more misery to a team that has now lost six of the last eight. Mike Matheny’s side is now two games back of the division-leading Pirates.

St. Louis (49-32, 27-16 road) will continue its West Coast swing Tuesday the first of three games against the Los Angeles Angels (39-43, 20-23 home), winners of six straight. The series will mark the first time the Cardinals have faced their former first baseman, Albert Pujols.

Cincinnati Reds at Texas Rangers

St. Louis isn’t the only NL Central side trending downwards at the moment. The Cincinnati Reds should certainly be considered to be in that same category.

A 3-2 loss against the Texas Rangers on Sunday saw the Reds drop the series 2-1, the team’s third straight lost series. Dusty Baker’s club has now lost eight of the last 11 games, and finished the month of June with a 12-15 record. This slump has seen the side fall 5 1/2 games back in the race for the division title. Only last week the Reds enjoyed the third best record in all of the majors. Now the club has fallen to eighth.

Cincinnati (46-36, 26-14 home) will look to turn things around with a return to Great American Ballpark. Only two NL teams (Atlanta, Pittsburgh) have won more games at home than the Reds, so Dusty Baker’s side will be confident heading into a four-game series with the San Francisco Giants (39-42, 15-27 road), a team that has lost 11-of-15 overall and nine of the last 12 on the road.

San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds odds for 7/1/13 are available now.

Edwin Jackson and the Chicago Cubs managed to hold on for the win in Seattle on Sunday.

Edwin Jackson and the Chicago Cubs managed to hold on for the win in Seattle on Sunday.

Chicago Cubs at Seattle Mariners

While GMs, analysts, bettors, and fans continue to pick-over the Chicago Cubs’ lineup in the search of those players that can help elsewhere, the team itself has had a decent week.

After picking up consecutive series wins – over the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers – in the space of a week, the Cubs secured another 2-1 series win with a 7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, just.

The Cubs held a 7-1 lead over the Mariners heading into fifth inning having taken advantage of some decent small ball. The Mariners though turned the tide, running off five runs between the fifth and eighth innings. Chicago closer Kevin Gregg held on to the lead though, rebounded from a blown save in Saturday’s game to shut-down Seattle, recording his 13th save of the season in the process.

With five wins from the last seven, Chicago (35-45, 18-23 road) continues its West Coast jaunt this week. The side will hope this run of good fortune continues through a three-game spell in Oakland (48-35, 26-13 home).

The series will mark the first time the Cubs have ever visited Oakland. The two sides have previously met for two series (2004, 2010), splitting the six games three-apiece.

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