Are The Pittsburgh Pirates For Real?

Ronny Cedeno, Neil Walker, Xavier Paul, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate in center field following their win against the New York Mets at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

You may not have noticed, but the Pittsburgh Pirates swept the Houston Astros this week, moving to two games over .500 and standing just three games out of first place in the NL Central.

The last time the Pirates were two games over .500 this late in the season, Jason Schmidt and Todd Ritchie were their best starting pitchers, Mike Williams was their closer, Ed Sprague their starting third baseman and George W. Bush was just the former owner of the Texas Rangers.

That last two-games-over date was July 2, 1999; those 40-38 Pirates finished the year 78-83 and haven't won as many games since.

This year's team has already won more road games (20) than they did all of 2010 (17), has one of the NL's best young players in Andrew McCutchen, ranks fifth in the league with a 3.50 ERA and has one of the NL's best reclamation stories in Charlie Morton, who could make the All-Star team.

Is this a mirage? Or can the Pirates stick with the big boys in the NL Central all year?

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