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Pittsburgh Pirates Are Thriving Despite Challenging Schedule

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 19:  Travis Snider #23, Jose Tabata #31 and Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate after winning against the Atlanta Braves during the game on April 19, 2013 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Pirates defeated the Braves 6-0.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IApril 25, 2013

Following their 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fully put their poor first week of the season in the rear view.

Thursday's victory was the Bucs' sixth in seven games and the team's 10th in 13 games, and the Pirates now sit at 13-9 and a half-game out of first place.

It's obviously only April, but the Pirates have gotten off to exactly the kind of start they were hoping for. Throw in how difficult the Bucs' April schedule has been, and that start continues to look more impressive.

I wrote about the Pirates' challenging schedule in March, noting that it would not be a surprise to see the Bucs get off to a slow start to the season given early series against World Series contenders like the Reds and Braves.

So far, the Pirates have played seven games against Cincinnati and Atlanta, winning six of them. In games played against teams other than the Pirates, the Reds and Braves have combined for a 27-9 record.

There are plenty of reasons to take this Pittsburgh start with a grain of salt, beyond the fact that is, again, still early in the season. For one, the Bucs only boast a plus-7 run differential, compared for example to a plus-32 for the Reds, who have the same 13-9 record. Another concern is that a recent stretch of short starts has forced the Pirates to overwork their bullpen a bit.

But none of that has been a problem thus far, and banked wins can't be taken away. The bottom line is that the Pirates are already four games over .500 while clearing a disproportionate number of difficult series from their calendar.

The light at the end of the tunnel, beginning May 7 when the Seattle Mariners come to the Steel City, is rapidly approaching. If the Pirates can sustain their strong play for another 10 days, they will be in better shape than pretty much any National League team heading into the early summer months.

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