Pirates looking for post All-Star surge behind Andrew McCutchen

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(AP)—The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in an average, every day—if still heated—pennant race.

A season after shedding the yoke of two decades of failure with a stirring run to a playoff berth, the Pirates are just another solid if not spectacular team trying to keep pace in the jam-packed NL Central.

To be honest, being an ordinary contender is refreshing.

“We know where we stand, we know where we are, we know we have to play good baseball and we know it’s not a matter of changing the course of Pirates history anymore or having a winning season,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “Those things were important, but now we know what we need to do to get to the playoffs.”

And do it without what Walker called the “unnecessary pressure” Pittsburgh faced in 2013, when the Pirates won 94 games and advanced to the NL division series.

Rather than be reminded at every turn how bad the franchise has been, the Pirates have been free to spend the first half of 2014 sorting themselves out in relative anonymity.

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