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July 5, 2011 - Robert "Bubba" Kapral
The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the feel-good stories of the first half of the Major League baseball season. Despite their new-found and long-awaited success, the Buccos still receive their share of disrespect. The baby Buccos are on pace to end two decades of losing. A sellout crowd on Independence Day watched the Gold & Black dispatch of the hapless Astros. It enabled the Pirates to go three games over the .500 mark, despite battling inexperience and injuries. The Buccos are no fluke. They have prime-time talent maturing quickly. The Pirates may have MLB's best closer in Joel Hanrahan. The strapping righthander is a perfect 25-of-25 in save opportunities, gaining him an All-Star berth. Unfortunately, he is the lone Bucco to gain that honor. That is a slap in the face to two teammates: outfield sensation Andrew McCutchen and mound mainstay Kevin Corria. Both should be on the All-Star roster but were victims of the Pirates' losing past. Those days are changing, however. The 2011 Pirates are improving daily and gaining much-needed confidence in the process. They are also making believers of their long-suffering fans, attracting the eighth sellout of the season Monday, one less than all of last year. Making matters even sweeter at PNC is that the Pirates are in the hunt for a division title. That is no misprint. After 85 games the Bucs are just a game and a half behind pacesetter St. Louis. It is a race that will likely be up for grabs through September, and there is no reason the Pirates cannot be part of the title chase. Years of rebuilding efforts have spawned a young and solid foundation in Pittsburgh -- one that should yield increasing success for years to come.
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