(AP) -- Playing one of their most important late-summer series in years, the Pirates gained a crucial game on the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener and hope to extend their lead in the NL wild-card standings when the teams continue their three-game set in St. Louis on Saturday.
In contention this late in August for the first time in 15 years, the Pirates handled the pressure on the road and beat the defending World Series champions 2-1 on Friday night, moving two games ahead of St. Louis in the standings.
Pittsburgh (66-53) is currently second in the wild-card race behind Atlanta, while the Cardinals (64-55) - who had hoped to pull even with the Pirates for the final wild card - are instead neck-and-neck with San Francisco for third. The Pirates remained six games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central after the first-place Reds beat the Cubs on Friday.
On the same day Pittsburgh mailed out instructions to season ticket holders on how to purchase potential playoff tickets, the Pirat...