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September 24, 2013

Pirates’ success good for NL Central

FAIRMONT — The great Yogi Berra may have said it best: “In baseball, you don’t know nothing.”

That statement rings true for this year’s crop of NL Central teams.

In recent years the Pittsburgh Pirates have been a franchise that was in the back of people’s minds. Unless you’re a Pirates fan, of course.

But this season, things are different.

And it’s good for more than just the Pirates.

For the past few seasons, the NL Central has seen the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers run things.

All three teams have made several playoff appearances and have kept the bottom half of the division, which included the Pirates, the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs, afloat.

While the Brewers have sort of faded away and have seemingly only made the news in a negative way in 2013, the Pirates have stepped in to take their place as one of the dominant teams in not only the division, but in baseball in general.

At certain points in the season, both the Cardinals and the Pirates have boasted the best record in baseball. And for the latter half of the season, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have been battling for the top spot and a chance to hoist a division title. While it seems that the Cardinals will likely get that chance, the Reds and the Pirates aren’t necessarily out of the running.

With the season just about a week from being over for some teams, only two games separate the top three teams in the NL Central.

The next closest division is the AL Central that has the Cleveland Indians trailing the Detroit Tigers by five games, but the Kansas City Royals sitting 8 1/2 games behind in third place, making the NL Central the closest race.

Either way, it looks as if all three teams will be making a playoff appearance in some capacity.

What does this mean for the NL Central?

It means that good baseball is being played. It also means that exciting baseball is being played.

Sure, any of these teams’ fans would love for their respective team to clinch something early in the season by blowing out their opponents all year long. But as a baseball fan you have to love the excitement, the thrill and, yes, even the nerves that come with the results coming down to the wire.

It’s like sitting through a 17-inning 0-0 game and seeing your favorite player hit a walk-off home run to win the game.

Some people would rather see a 12-11 shootout, but we won’t get into that right now. You can catch my drift, though.

Baseball that comes down to the wire is what the 162-game season is all about.

This sentiment will surely be felt by Pirates’ and Reds’ fans as the two division rivals will square off in a final three-game series to end the regular season starting Friday.

This season has been a special one for the Pirates, and their continued success will play a huge part in keeping the NL Central strong.

Don’t you just love baseball?

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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