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Five Thoughts: How to begin a big stretch ☕

MILWAUKEE – One down and 15 to go for the Pirates.

The Pirates began what could turn out to be a season-defining stretch of games Friday night by rallying for a 3-2 victory over the Brewers in the opener of a three-game series at Miller Park. You can read more about the game here.

It wasn’t the prettiest win, as the Pirates used fielder’s choices to score both the tying run in the eighth inning and the go-ahead run in the ninth. The Pirates will certainly take it as Friday began a string of 16 straight games against the three teams ahead of them in the National League Central standings.

Following this series, the Pirates come home to PNC Park on Monday for a seven-game homestand that includes four games with the Cubs and three with the Brewers. The Pirates will then have four days off for the All-Star break before playing three games each against the Cubs in Chicago and Cardinals in St. Louis.

With the season reaching the halfway point Saturday, it might be still early to call this a make-or-break stretch for the Pirates. However, it could go a long way in determining if the Pirates have any chance of winning their first division title since 1992.

The Pirates (39-41) trail the Cubs (44-38) by four games, the Brewers (43-39) by three games and the Cardinals (40-39) by 1 ½ games in the tightly bunched standings. The last-place Reds (37-42) are just 1 ½ games back of the Pirates.

If nothing else, the Pirates are hot coming into this stretch of games. Friday’s win was their third in a row and seventh in their last eight games. And they've gone 9-3 since a seven-game losing streak seemed to all but torpedo the season.

“The last 10 or so days have been huge for us,” Chris Archer said. “We’ve been slowly building and building. To see where we’re at now is very encouraging.”

Let's dig into more storylines following last night's effort:

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