First Pitch: Playoff Races Kind of Suck

Mark Melancon blew his second save this week, although this one was on his defense. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Mark Melancon blew his second save this week, although this one was on his defense. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

For so many years the Pirates were on the outside of a playoff race. You could watch all of the contending teams, maybe pick a team you wanted to cheer on, but with no attachments you could just cheer for good baseball.

Good baseball is being played right now in the NL Central. And it sucks if you follow one of those NL Central teams.

The Reds came back in the ninth inning tonight against the Pirates, then won in extra innings. That tied for the Wild Card, and put them both 1.5 games back from the Cardinals. Later in the evening the Cardinals blew a two run lead in the ninth, but escaped with a tie, and won it in the tenth inning. That gave them a two game lead over the other two division rivals.

To the casual MLB fan, these games are great. Having three teams within two games of the division? Having one team come back to tie with a second team for the Wild Card spot? Another team holding off a comeback attempt only to add some space in their division lead? All of that is amazing.

Unless you follow one of these teams. Then it takes a totally different tone. There’s no way to enjoy what happened with the Reds if you follow the Pirates or Nationals. If you follow the Reds and Pirates, you can’t enjoy the Cardinals fighting back in their game, then blowing a lead, then coming up big to prevent the winning run, then winning the game in extra innings.

There’s a flip side to this. There are the days like Thursday, where the Pirates destroyed the Padres, the Cardinals lost, and the two teams were a game apart in the NL Central. That was a good day if you follow the Pirates, bad if you follow the Cardinals and Reds, and good all around if you are a fan of any other team.

You’d think these days would even out, but they don’t. In general, a winning result is going to be dismissed as something a team needs to do. The win against the Padres was the total opposite of the loss against the Reds. It was an amazing win, and this was a crushing loss. But the wins are expected, and a loss like this hurts because a win was so close. So they don’t balance out. A loss like this weighs heavier than a win, even if it’s a win against the Reds. That’s not saying that a win wouldn’t be enjoyable. But you’ll forget the win a day later. The loss sticks with you.

Keep in mind that I’m not projecting these thoughts onto the players. I don’t think they view the game in the same manner.

It’s definitely not a bad thing to be in the playoffs. A late September loss for the Pirates means they’re now two games out of first place, and tied with the Reds. That’s better than the previous years where a loss didn’t mean anything, because the season was over in late September. So it’s a good thing that the Pirates are in a playoff race.

But that playoff race is full of intense game after intense game, day after day. There is no break. This is pretty much the intensity of a 16 game NFL season, all crammed into one week, and then it’s followed by a possible March Madness style, one and done Wild Card playoff, and then if the team wins, that is followed by as many as three different normal playoff series.

Let us pre-emptively mourn all of the Pirates fans we’re about to lose due to the stress of the next few weeks.

Links and Notes

**Playoff Race Update: Reds and Pirates Now Tied For the Top Wild Card Spot

**Reds Stun Pirates in 6-5 Comeback Victory

**Pirates Notebook: The Most Important Game All Season

**Five Players Who Could Help the Pirates Win the NL Central

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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