You could call it a collapse. You could call it a regression. You could use whatever word you want. I think all Pirates fans would agree that one word fits the most: disappointing.
Whether the Pirates were legitimately as good as they played through the month of July, the fact is that they were 59-44 heading in to August. They probably aren’t as good as their June and July numbers, and we couldn’t expect that going forward. But they did have an advantage: an easy schedule.
The final two months were loaded with games against the Cubs, Astros, Padres, Mets, and other teams with poor records. The Pirates didn’t have to do much to continue their winning ways. The schedule was giving them a big advantage. But they haven’t capitalized on that advantage. Take a look at the following records against the teams with losing records since August 1st.
San Diego Padres (69-75): 1-5
Chicago Cubs (57-87): 1-4
Houston Astros (46-99): 2-1
Those games against the Padres and Cubs really hurt, especially the Cubs games in the last week. Those numbers need to be reversed. The Pirates needed to go 9-2 in those games, not 2-9.
Then there’s the teams hovering around .500, making a late season surge.
Arizona Diamondbacks (71-72): 2-2
Milwaukee Brewers (72-72): 1-5
The Arizona series isn’t bad. But the Milwaukee games are horrible. Granted, the Brewers have been hot in the second half, but that shouldn’t matter to contenders. A contender should at least split a series with a .500 team. The Pirates made up for this a bit by going 4-2 against the Cardinals, although they’ve also gone 1-5 against the Reds.
Say what you want about “Any Given Sunday” and how you have to play the games. The fact is that over the long haul, a contender doesn’t win one out of five against a team like the Cubs, or one out of six against a team like the Padres. Maybe that happens once, to one team. But that’s not the case with the Pirates. It’s happening with almost every losing team they face.
This would be a great point in the season to turn things around. The Pirates have three games against the Cubs, three against Milwaukee, three against Houston, and four against the Mets. This is the easiest stretch anyone could ask for in September. Yet they got off to a bad start today, getting shut down by another no-name pitcher.
Right now it all has the feel of those seasons where the Pirates would finish last, or as one of the four worst teams in the league. No name pitchers completely shut them down. Their own pitchers give up damage in the first inning. And when the team falls behind, there’s a feeling that the game is already over with no chance of a comeback, no matter how early it is. That’s probably because when they actually get people on base, there’s a feeling that they’d be lucky to score more than one run, even if the bases are loaded with no outs.
That wasn’t the case earlier in the year. The team battled and fought back. They came though in clutch situations. Not every situation, but enough to make a difference. They dominated the bad teams, and held their own against the good teams. If they want any chance at turning this season around, they need to get back to that immediately. Because losing another series against the Cubs will pretty much signal the end of the season for the Pirates.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost to the Cubs 7-4.
**Deadspin calls this the worst season ever. If they finish below .500, I’d have to agree.
**Bryan Morris finally made his MLB debut, pitching a scoreless inning and needing nine pitches.
**As of this writing, the Dodgers were leading the Cardinals 8-4. If the score holds, the Pirates would remain 3.0 games back in the Wild Card race.