Sitting here on the last day of May, it is still hard to get a solid read on what type of team the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be the rest of the way.

What could go wrong for Clint Hurdle’s team has, but in the same light, the Pittsburgh Pirates very well could be the most fortunate team in national League. With their best power bat not in the country and probably their best all-around player serving a PED suspension, somehow the Pirates still have a glimmer of hope. With all of the injuries and poor performances that have led to a 24-30 record, the Pirates still sit only 4.5 games out of first place in the National League Central.

If the last-place Pirates shouldn’t feel extremely lucky to be where they are right now, despite a  minus-38 run differential, I don’t what else they want. Realistically, this team could be buried in the standings, but the NL Central has been so lousy, that the Pirates are one or two good weeks away from moving out of last place to the top of the division.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that through two months of the season this team has shown that they are incapable of playing the type of baseball they need in order to make a serious charge up the standings.

So what needs to change?

Win the games you should win

The Pirates wasted another quality start from Ivan Nova Tuesday night in a 3-0 lo0ss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

That’s just one example of how Hurdle’s team have left wins on the field.

Think about the four or five games lost due to terrible defense early in the season. Think about all the games the bullpen has squandered through two months.

Think about the losses that should have been wins had the Pirates not hit just .239 with runners in scoring position up to this point.

If the Bucs get just half of those games back and we are probably talking about a team that has a four or five game lead in the division.

The Pirates obviously need to clean up things in a lot of areas, but they also have shown the ability to play their best baseball in the summer months the past few seasons.

If they can follow that trend then they should be in a good spot.

But they have to start beating the teams they should be beating and need to start doing so on a more consistent basis.

June will tell all

The schedule favored the Pittsburgh Pirates during the month of May.

Unfortunately the Pirates went just 11-14 prior to Wednesday day game against Arizona. That’s not going to cut it.

While the month of May should have presented a bit of break for the Pirates, the month of June will be much tougher.

The schedule features upcoming road trips against the Mets, Orioles, Brewers and Cardinals while tough opponents at home in the Cubs and Rockies. It’s safe to say that the month of June will either make or break the Pirates season.

Win series

The Pirates don’t necessarily have to reel off 10-12 consecutive wins to stay in the hunt. What they have to start doing on a more consistent basis is simply winning each series.

To date the Bucs have won just seven of the 17 series they have played on the season. If they start taking two of three from everyone, especially division rivals, they can start to make up ground fairly quickly.

Gaining a game in the standings every series, opposed to losing a game, will keep the Pirates in the race for the time being.

Through two months of the season, as bad as they have been, this team sits in a great spot. If the Cubs came out the gate like everyone expected and I had told you that at the end of May the Pirates would sit just 3.5 games out of first place, most people would have likely been happy with that.

Luckily that is exactly where the Pittsburgh Pirates are.

Over the next few weeks we will see if they can take advantage of their good fortune.

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.