Tonight, the Pittsburgh Pirates begin a four game series with the first place Milwaukee Brewers. However, it isn’t just any series. It could very well establish the Pirates trade deadline intentions as the July 31 date nears.

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently find themselves in one of the most unusual positions in all of baseball. The Bucs, who sit at 44-48 on the season, are caught in the middle of the spectrum between potentially buying at the trade deadline or selling.

The Pirates are seven games back in a dreadful National League Central division behind the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals – teams that have had their fair share of woes this season.

Pittsburgh is fresh off of a series victory against the Cardinals at PNC Park following the All-Star break, and as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, there is speculation as to whether the team will buy and go all in to win the division or sell some of their best pieces. The Pirates only option if they wish to make the playoffs is to win the NL Central outright. Despite the Los Angeles Dodgers dominance in the NL West, a team such as Arizona or Colorado are likely to emerge as the top candidates to face off in the NL Wild Card game.

Pivotal series with Brewers awaits

While the answer to the question, “Will the Pirates be buyers or sellers” has been long awaited, it may come sooner rather than later. The Pirates begin a four-game series with the first place Brewers tonight at PNC Park and the result could very well bring with it the answer to whether they will attempt to make some acquisitions to better improve the team as they make a push for the playoffs or if they will trade or at least listen to offers on players such as Andrew McCutchen, Tony Watson, Juan Nicasio and Gerrit Cole.

Some may ask, “Why is this particular series important in making this determination?” Well, time is simply running out. The trade deadline, which many consider to be one of the most exciting times of the season, is just two weeks away. Also, this series could either put the Pirates in more legitimate contention as the deadline looms closer, or it could push them farther away from the rest of the pack.

If the Pirates were to lose three of four, or even get swept, they would at least be 10 games back in the divisional race. Even if they salvaged a series split, they would remain nine games back, a large hole to climb out of at this time in the season.

If the Pirates were to win three of four, they could gain some much-needed ground and be within four games of the Brewers. Of course, this all depends on what the Cubs and Cardinals do in the meantime as well. If the Bucs could get themselves within a few games by the deadline, they could be in good position considering that the return of Starling Marte could benefit them moving forward as well.

Do the Pirates have an advantage in the series?

Winning three of four or even sweeping the Brewers isn’t going to be an easy task. The “Brew Crew” is 8-2 in their last 10 games and have stuck around on top of the division while many in baseball, myself included, didn’t think it was possible. However, it might be hard to believe, but the Pirates have been relatively stellar in their last 10 games as well, posting a 7-3 record in that span.

When looking at the pitching matchups, the Pirates may have a slight edge. The Bucs will send Chad Kuhl, Ivan Nova, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon to the mound in the series. The Brewers will have Brent Suter, who will be making his fourth start in place of the injured Chase Anderson, take the mound in game one of the series tonight followed by a starter to be determined in game two and Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson in games three and four, respectively.

It’s a big series for Milwaukee, too

Not only does this series answer questions for the Pirates, but it may also do the same for the Brewers.

The Brewers have been one of the best stories of 2017. They’ve done so much and they’ve held on above the likes of the Cubs and the Cardinals for much longer than anyone anticipated. However, maybe that all ends soon. This series could determine whether or not the Brewers are a legitimate threat or if they are on the verge of having the wheels fall off in the second half of the season.

For the Pirates, it’s been a disappointing year. It has brought with it some positives – including their current 10 game stretch – along with lingering struggles for a majority of the season.

Only time will tell where these two teams end up. Will the Brewers go all in to maintain their division lead, or will they falter and begin to slip beginning tonight at PNC Park? Will the Pirates get close enough to buy in to their chances to compete, or will they sell to better equip their future as they set their eyes on 2018?

The next four days should be interesting for both teams as they battle at PNC Park. For Pirates and Brewers fans alike, I suggest you sit back and get your popcorn ready, because there very well could be a lot at stake this week.

 

Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U’s campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.