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This has not been a good month for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans. They enter tonight, the final game of the month, with an 11-16 record in August, including series losses to the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Milwaukee Brewers, as well as a 1-5 record in two series against the San Diego Padres. Things have not been going well for the Bucs…so how are they still in the N.L. playoff conversation with teams like the defending champion Cardinals and star-studded Dodgers?

The Pirates are a half game behind the Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot, and with the Red Birds facing the Washington Nationals this weekend, the Bucs have a shot to regain their spot in the playoff picture.

Pedro Alvarez caught fire earlier this week, continuing his onslaught against Cardinals’ pitching this season. Andrew McCutchen, will still struggling at times, has been showing quality at bats, while the rest of the lineup has been chipping in as well. The key of this week’s series, and will have to be the main point of emphasis for the rest of the season, is the starting pitching. With Jeff Karstens, A.J. Burnett, and James McDonald on the mound this weekend, things look good for their series in Milwaukee…on paper, at least.

The Pirates made some roster changes as well this week. Erik Bedard was released by the team, while Alex Presley and Kyle McPherson will join the team in Milwaukee today. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out with the rosters expanding this weekend.

This is not a must-win game tonight or a must-win series for the Pirates…but if they’re going to continue to make a run at the playoffs, these are the types of series they need to take advantage of, especially when the teams they’re racing against are struggling, as the Cardinals and Dodgers are currently.

Pirates (70-60) vs. Brewers (62-68)

About the Brewers…

62-68 Record, 4th In N.L. Central

Last Series: 3-1 Series Victory @ Chicago Cubs

There’s no denying the fact that this has been a down year for the Milwaukee Brewers. The loss of Prince Fielder, along with injuries and underperformances by the pitching staff, and, of course, the trade of Zack Greinke, have all but taken the team out of any type of postseason race with a month remaining in the regular season. But, as every team does, the Brewers have been playing better baseball lately, and have actually (somehow) crept into Wild Card talks. Still 8.5 games back of the final playoff spot, it is utterly far-fetched that they could sneak their way in…but that’s what many thought of the St. Louis Cardinals’ chances last year…

Love him or hate him, Ryan Braun is having another remarkable season in 2012. He leads the team in batting average (.311), homeruns (36), RBI’s (92), and runs scored (88), and the only blemish on his quest for a second straight N.L. MVP award is his team’s record.

Last weekend, the Brewers took two of three games from the Pirates at PNC Park. This past week, both teams have responded well…the Bucs have, of course, taken two of three from the Cardinals, while the Brew Crew won three of four over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Milwaukee is 15-12 in the month of August, and playing very good baseball as the Pirates come into town.

Pitching Matchups:

8/31 – Jeff Karstens (PIT) (5-3, 3.47, 58 K, 15 BB, WHIP 1.12) vs. Mark Rogers (MIL) (2-1, 4.28 ERA, 36 K, 12 BB, WHIP 1.28)

9/1 – A.J. Burnett (PIT) (15-5, 3.67 ERA, 136 K, 49 BB, WHIP 1.25) vs. Marco Estrada (MIL) (2-5, 4.02 ERA, 104 K, 23 BB, WHIP 1.21)

9/2 – James McDonald (PIT) (12-6, 3.57 ERA, 141 K, 61 BB, WHIP 1.18) vs. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) (14-8, 3.52 ERA, 172 K, 65 BB, WHIP 1.26)

The N.L. Wild Card race is heating up as we head into the final month of the season this weekend. The Pirates, despite a difficult month of August, can turn the page in Milwaukee and open September with a series victory. Be sure to check back here for recaps and reactions to each and every game from us, the Fans From The Stands!

And…

As Always…

Let’s Go Bucs!