Game #88 vs. Cubs

PNC Park | 1:35 | Youman vs. Carlos Zambrano | Box

The Pirates finished out the first half with four series wins. They went 7-3 over their last 10, beating Ben Sheets and Carlos Zambrano in the process. They made up a little ground in the NL Central standings.
Still, at 40-48, they’re on pace to finish the 2007 season with 73 wins.
This afternoon, Shane Youman threw a quality start, Shawn Chacon and Matt Capps pitched three scoreless innings of relief, and Jason Bay showed signs of life as the Pirates dropped the Cubs, 6-2. Our left fielder went 2 for 4 with a home run and four runs batted in, ending the first half on a high note.
Still, Bay is hitting .254. Adam LaRoche, thanks to a recent tear, is up to .239. Ronny Paulino, .234. Jack Wilson, .259. Jose Bautista, .257.
The Pirates have room for improvement, and they could very well play .500 baseball in the second half. Do just that, though, and they’d finish out their 15th consecutive losing season.
To win 82 games, the Pirates would have to play at a .568 clip for the remainder of the year. That’s in the same neighborhood as the Mets, Brewers and Padres of the first half—the Pirates would need to perform like one of the best clubs in the National League.
And that’s just to reach mediocrity.
All things considered, you’ll take this recent stretch. But beating the Brewers and Cubs now just keeps us afloat. This Pirate ship is sailing, but for how long?
Pre-game Thoughts
If we lose this one by a wide margin, you’ll be able to point to yesterday as the night the wheels came off for good.
After the break, the Pirates head to Atlanta for a three-game set, and since we’ll be throwing Snell, Gorzelanny and Maholm, there’s a good chance we could win a game or two. Then it’s home to face an up and down Colorado team with Van Benschoten and Youman, meaning the Rockies will be rocking.
After an off day, Houston visits PNC—and given our 2007 track record against the Astros, you’d expect to win that series.
Heading into the trade deadline, though, we hit the road to face the Mets and Phillies. A losing skid then could help make up Littlefield’s mind—he’ll sell off Torres, maybe Castillo and Duffy, effectively waving a white flag on this year.
That being said, maybe Youman shows up today. Maybe he pitches a gem against Chicago and the Pirates enter the break having won their last four series. Maybe we tread water for just a little while longer.
Stranger things have happened.
If you’re a prospect fan, don’t forget about the Futures Game this afternoon. It kicks off the All-Star festivities in San Francisco: will broadcast, via BaseballChannel.TV, the Futures Pregame Show at 3 p.m. ET, then stream ESPN’s coverage of the game at 4 p.m. ET, with bonus and exclusive coverage during the breaks in the action.
The blogging will allow fans to keep tabs on players like U.S. pitcher Luke Hochevar (Kansas City), who is shooting to become the third Royals player in as many years to take home the Futures Game Most Valuable Player honor.

Steve Pearce and Serguey Linares are representing the Pirates. Each team sends one domestic and one foreign prospect, I believe, which explains Linares’ inclusion—our system is devoid of international talent.
Later this evening, I’ll be making a guest appearance on the big, big Sportsocracy show, hosted by friend of Lumber Co., Thejim. Feel free to head to their site, tune in and listen live at 8 o’clock. If memory serves, a recording will be available early next week, too.

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