Yes it is after the all-star break.
Yes, Major League Baseball teams are in the thick of the playoff chase.
And yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place. Do not adjust your computer screens, TVs, radio dials, smartphones or anything else you might use to get information.
The Pirates blanked the Houston Astros last night, 4-0, and vaulted into first place in the NL Central, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates record sits at 48-43 while the Cards are 49-44. With equal winning percentages, they sit atop the division together. If the season ended today, the teams would face off in a one game playoff to determine the division winner.
Pirates hurler Jeff Karstens limited the Astros to five hits and zero runs over all nine innings. He was assisted by centerfielder Andrew McCutcheon whose third inning triple drove in two runs. The Pirates have owned the Astros this year winning eight out of 10 games against the Astros.
The last time the Pirates were in first place was 1997. The last time the team finished over .500, won their division and made the playoffs was 1992. Back then, the Pirates featured a young, slim Barry Bonds and lost the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves.
Today? Barry Bonds is retired, jacked and the most controversial baseball player since Shoeless Joe Jackson having been accused of taking steroids.
To say it's been a while may be an understatement. Of the four major sports leagues, the Pirates 18-season winning record streak is the longest streak today. The Pirates are one of baseball's most historic franchises dating back to the 19th century and featuring legends like Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente. However, the economy of baseball's hierarchy has forced the team to become fodder for the bigger teams.
Any good player the team has had over the last 18 years has been traded to a big market team for cash purposes. For instance, in 2008, the Pirates traded All-Star slugger Jason Bay to the Red Sox for cash purposes. Bay himself had been traded to the Pirates a young prospect back in 2003 so the team could unload Brian Giles.