It seems like any time the Pirates get close to the playoffs this year, they immediately decline and fall further back from the race. This becomes frustrating due to the fact that they’ve managed to claw their way back so many times, only to fall back again.
One of the recurring jokes in previous seasons was that the season was deemed over after a big loss, or a big series loss, or just a few losses in a row. That was a joke because the Pirates were still one of the best teams in baseball during those years, and you knew they were making the playoffs. This year, the “season is over” line is actually true, except the Pirates always seem to turn things around and revive their season that was flat lining.
Take a week ago, for example. They swept the Milwaukee Brewers over four games on the road, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment when you consider their history in Milwaukee. That put them half a game back for the second Wild Card spot. They then proceeded to lose six in a row to the Cubs and Brewers, falling back to 3.5 games out of the second spot.
This wasn’t a unique swing of events. They were 3.5 games back heading into that Milwaukee series, after losing five of six to Miami and Houston. Prior to that bad stretch, they were just one game out. That’s because they went on a nice 9-3 run, pulling themselves from three games back.
So now they’re back to that area where they’re about three games back, and they need a rebound. Fortunately, they still have the opportunity to make that rebound. The team they’re trailing is St. Louis, and they’re about to take them on for three games at home. Sweep the series, and they could be as close as a half game back, depending on what the Mets and Marlins do. Following that, they have four games at home against the Reds, four on the road against the Phillies, four on the road against the Reds, and three on the road against the Brewers.
Their schedule is set up in a way where they should be able to pull themselves back in the race. The problem is that they’ve had this type of scheduling advantage a lot in the second half, and they haven’t been able to consistently take advantage of it. They haven’t been able to beat the teams they need to pass in the Wild Card race (losing a three game sweep against the Marlins), and they haven’t been able to beat up on teams that a contender should beat up on (losing two of three against the Braves, getting swept twice by the Brewers).
The season is running out of dates. If the Pirates are going to do something, they need to do it now. Because their final week and a half consists of the Nationals, Cubs, and Cardinals, and that’s not the area of the schedule where you want to make up a lot of ground. It’s also an area of the schedule where you’d preferably like to have some breathing room while sitting in a playoff spot. But for that to happen, the Pirates are going to have to get something they haven’t had much this year: Consistent production that will eliminate bad stretches.
Here are the top stories from the week, with none of them including Pirates victories. Hopefully that changes next week.
10. Jung Ho Kang is expected to return tomorrow. Brian Peloza covered his rehab start with Indianapolis, and wrote about the progress he was making heading into the weekend.
9. Last weekend, Gift Ngoepe and Dovydas Neverauskas were arrested in Toledo. I had the full coverage on the arrests this week, along with a column on what other young players can learn from this. This incident probably won’t bar Ngoepe and Neverauskas from the majors for life, but might cost them a shot at making it up this year.
8. The Pirates drafted Braeden Ogle in the fourth round this year, and the lefty has shown some promise in the GCL, ending his season with some good numbers and a promising fastball. I talked with Ogle, and recapped the progression he made this season.
7. Ke’Bryan Hayes returned recently from a back injury, but suffered a setback when the doctors found he had a cracked rib. He’s currently out for the season, hoping that he will be able to return during instructs.
6. The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced this week. Austin Meadows and Trevor Williams will headline the Pirates’ group. Sean McCool got the reactions from Eric Wood, Jin-De Jhang, and Montana DuRapau on their selections.
5. The Arquimedes Caminero trade was completed this week, with the Pirates receiving two lottery ticket pitchers in the lower levels. I broke down the early opinions and rankings of the pitchers, while also discussing our process for ranking new players in trades like this.
4. The Ivan Nova deal was also completed, with the Pirates sending out Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley. Alan Saunders asked Neal Huntington about the returns in both the Nova and Caminero deals during Huntington’s meeting with the media this week.
3. The calendar flipped over to September, and rosters expanded this week. The Pirates called up five players, expanding their roster to 30. Alan Saunders wrote about the new additions to the team, and the roles they are expected to fill.
2. Tyler Glasnow made a start with Indianapolis this week, after being optioned back to the level a week ago. Brian Peloza wrote about what Glasnow needed to do to turn around his recent command problems, and provided a live recap of the start where he walked four in 5.2 innings.
1. Mitch Keller was promoted to Bradenton this week, and didn’t miss a beat to continue his breakout season. I covered his debut live with Wilbur Miller (with that Prospect Watch also including double-coverage of Braeden Ogle and Max Kranick), and wrote about him later in the week, pointing out what a rare prospect he has been.