It sure seemed like the world, though, for a team that has closed out the last 18 seasons with a losing record.
Now, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh square off again, with both teams on the outside looking in at the division race. Things have changed quickly.
After taking the first two games from the Reds in their three-game set in mid-July, the Pirates stood at 51-44, a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for the NL Central lead. The losses had plummeted Dusty Baker's squad to five games back.
However, the Reds took the final game of the series and the Pirates have been in a free fall ever since, going 7-20.
Now the Reds and Pirates are battling for third place, relegated to a distant view of the top of the division, where Milwaukee comfortably sits and St. Louis grasps hope, 6 1/2 games back.
Both teams stand outside of 10 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.
"We've got to play better than we're playing right now," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We have to play complete games."
The Pirates are 7-2 against the Reds this season, and they'll hope their ace can deliver another win against their division rival.
However, Friday's starter Kevin Correia hasn't fared well at his home park.
Correia is 2-8 with a 7.58 ERA in 12 games (11 starts) at PNC Park, compared to a 10-3 mark and 2.64 ERA in 14 road outings.
Coming off series loss to the Nationals, the Reds will counter with Homer Bailey, who has yet to face Pittsburgh this season, but is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates.
Reds: Phillips plays leading role
Second baseman Brandon Phillips batted leadoff Wednesday for the first time all season. Phillips hit in the top spot in the order 72 times last season, and the Reds went 43-29 in those games en route to a division crown. Regular leadoff hitter Drew Stubbs batted sixth on Wednesday.
"Brandon is the one guy in our lineup that has the ability to bat all over the lineup," manager Dusty Baker said. "You don't find those guys very often. Preferably, you'd like Stubbs in the first spot, but he's struggling a little bit."
Pirates: Jones thriving in August heat
Garrett Jones is enjoying a terrific month of August, hitting .328 (19-for-58) with four homers and eight RBIs. Manager Clint Hurdle has appreciated Jones' ability to produce from any spot in the batting order.
"He's hit basically two through seven for us this season," Hurdle said. "He's continued to persevere. He wants to play. He wants reps wherever he can get them."
Starting Friday, the Pirates are scheduled to play 21 games in 20 days. Pittsburgh plays a doubleheader Monday against Milwaukee and doesn't benefit from an off day until Sept. 8.
Pittsburgh is 27-15 against NL Central teams not including the Brewers. Against Milwaukee, the Pirates are 0-8 and have been outscored, 42-14.