Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 8/9/14
The Cardinals took a half game lead in the NL Central today. The next two weeks are going to be the biggest weeks in the NL Central playoff race. This is something that gets said before every series between the Cardinals and Pirates, Reds and Pirates, or Cardinals and Reds. It’s true for all of those matchups, because this is a tight division race, and every game counts. But the next two weeks are going to be the biggest two weeks of the series, and that’s not hyperbole at all. The Pirates play the Cardinals six times in that stretch. They also play Milwaukee six times. Aside from the six games against the Pirates, the Cardinals play the Reds six more times, after beating them tonight and taking a half game lead in the NL Central. The Reds have three games in Colorado, which is a tough place to play, and three games against the Dodgers. The most important thing for the Pirates is to win. That’s pretty obvious, but no matter what happens with the Reds and the Cardinals, the Pirates will be in this race if they keep winning. They possibly have the best schedule of the three teams during this stretch. The games against the Cardinals look rough on paper, but the Pirates have played well against St. Louis this year (8-5 record). In previous years the six games against Milwaukee would be circled on the calendar, but the Pirates have reversed their losing ways against the Brewers, going 9-4 so far this year. It will help that Milwaukee is without Ryan Braun for all of those games. While it’s obvious that the Pirates can stay in the race by winning, they might get some help by St. Louis and Cincinnati battling it out between each other. If one team dominates, that makes it a two team race, assuming the Pirates keep winning. If both teams tread water and exchange wins, then the Pirates have a chance to pull ahead of both teams with a good two weeks. There’s going to be a lot of scoreboard watching in that span. Those games between the Cardinals and the Reds are going to be just as important as the games that Pittsburgh will be playing against Milwaukee. It’s going to be a tight race until the end. Even if the Pirates go 4-2 against each of their opponents, and the Reds and Cardinals split, that only gives the Pirates a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals. But they’d have a good chance of adding to that lead or maintaining it following that last Cardinals game. They would have three games on the road in Texas, followed by eight at home against the Padres and Cubs. If the Pirates take back the division lead, then that home stretch would be a prime opportunity to either expand that lead, or at least maintain it if the Cardinals also go on a winning streak. The division won’t be decided in the next two weeks, but the final standings will be heavily influenced. It starts this week with six games at home. The Pirates have a .656 winning percentage at PNC Park, which is the second best winning percentage in the majors at home, trailing only the Atlanta Braves. That’s a good way to start this important stretch. Links and Notes **The newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast is up: P3 Episode 18: Prospect Talk With Pirates Farm Director Larry Broadway. **Prospect Watch: Pimentel Struggles in Latest Start; Dickerson Hits 16th Homer **Frank Coonelly: Replay System May Not Increase Game Length **Kendrys Morales Claimed By an Unknown Team **Top Performers: Glasnow’s Outing One of the Most Dominant of the Year **Top Performers: Buckner Showing Off His Power; Hanson Heating Up in Altoona **DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates2 Lose Badly to Tigers in Playoff Opener **Minor League Schedule: Taillon Makes Fifth AAA Start Tonight
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Celtics looking to make LeBron's life difficult in playoff series

WATCH: Luke Rockhold chokes out Lyoto Machida

WATCH: Masai Ujiri fires up Raptors fans with expletive

Andre Johnson: Signing with Colts not about revenge

Pete Rose joining FOX as baseball analyst

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce around time of relapse

Isaiah Thomas once peed himself to avoid subbing out

Report: ESPN employees want Britt McHenry fired

WATCH: Raptors fans shower Paul Pierce with vulgar taunts

Report: Vikings want first-rounder, starting CB for Peterson

Jarret Stoll arrested for possession of drugs

Report: Todd Gurley's knee checks out well in evaluation

WATCH: All 286 3-pointers Steph Curry made this season

WATCH: Devan Dubnyk makes great save while leaving net

Sabres GM not happy about losing draft lottery

Yordano Ventura ejected for plunking Brett Lawrie

Five early takeaways from the 2015 MLB season

WATCH: Cubs fan catches foul ball in beer cup, chugs it

WATCH: Cardale Jones throws ball 74 yards during contest

Shaka Smart was quite popular at the Texas spring game

Ohio State sets spring game attendance record

WATCH: Bubba Watson raps on Christian rap track

WATCH: Jags mascot wins closest to pin at Sawgrass

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce from wife

Report: McHenry's coworkers want her fired

WATCH: Raptors fans taunt Paul Pierce

Five things to watch in NBA Playoffs

Jarret Stoll busted for drugs

CJ Wilson: Hamilton is 'ready to go'

Leaked Clippers jersey redesigns

Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase preview

Home runs ruined our ability to appreciate production

Why we love the NFL draft

The "worst" player on each NBA playoff team

Jim Harbaugh showed up at Ultimate Frisbee practice

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.