An erratic offense, some inconsistent play and a 20-year playoff drought hasn't prevented the Pittsburgh Pirates from remaining near the top of the NL Central.
Now the resilient Pirates have a chance to move past the St. Louis Cardinals atop the division with a doubleheader sweep Tuesday at PNC Park.
Francisco Liriano won for the sixth time in seven starts and Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-leading 27th home run in Monday's 9-2 series-opening victory that moved Pittsburgh (62-42) within a half-game of the slumping Cardinals (62-41).
Since averaging 3.2 runs and hitting .229 over a 14-game stretch, the Pirates have batted .267 and scored seven runs or more in three of their last five. They fanned four times Monday after striking out 62 times in their previous five games.
"We're a confident team," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose club seeks its first playoff berth in 21 years. "I think we're a team whose confidence isn't built on its last game. It's not shattered by a losing streak."