ST. LOUIS -- With a strong bullpen, solid rotation and a lineup led by one of the game's rising stars in center field, the Pirates appear poised to end the longest streak of losing seasons in U.S. team sports history.
Oh, wait. You say you've heard that before. For the past two years, in fact.
Indeed, 2013 is feeling a lot like 2012 and 2011, when center fielder Andrew McCutchen led the Pirates into the All-Star break with a winning record before they collapsed in the second half.
Look no further than third baseman Pedro Alvarez to see just how similar this first half has been to last year's. His numbers after 66 games:
2013: .214, 14 homers, 38 RBIs, .281 OBP.
2012: .214, 12 homers, 39 RBIs, .280 OBP.
For a guy who is maddeningly streaky, Alvarez's production sure has been consistent.
Pittsburgh's winning ways lasted into August last year, when the club equaled its high mark of 16 games over .500 on Aug. 8. But an N.L.-worst 16-36 finish left them 79-83 and waiting for n...