Following the dismal performance this past weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates and their management need to take one step back and ask themselves one question: “Are we for real?”
To this point, the Pirates have given every fan a reason to believe as they go into Tuesday night three games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.
With a big series coming up against the Red Birds, there are some areas Manager Clint Hurdle would like to see improvements on. The way the offense failed to capitalize on crucial must-score situations over the last several days makes the average fan ask themselves, “Are they for real?”
After seeing this team outscored 19-7 in a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies, skeptics who still refuse to jump on the Bucco wagon have some solid evidence. Pittsburgh simply got swept and outplayed by a mediocre Colorado squad. Yea, it happens. But it was more so the way they were beaten.
Exhibit A: Pittsburgh had a golden opportunity in Game 1 Friday when they started the ballgame with four straight singles off starter Jorge De La Rosa. Guess what? They did not score. Starling Marte was picked off, Pedro Alvarez struck out swinging and Gaby Sanchez grounded out. Take that in for a moment… zero runs on four consecutive hits.
The Rockies came up in the bottom of the first and chalked up four runs on five hits off Francisco Liriano in what turned out to be his worst outing of the season.
In the top of the second (allow us to call this Exhibit B), Pittsburgh managed to leave the bases loaded once again. They did score a run on a sacrifice fly, but it was not enough to build any momentum for the team as they went on to lose that game, 10-1.
Who is to say the outcome would have been the same if the Pirates had scored a couple here and a couple there? They could be looking at a 4-4 tie going into the bottom of the second at best.
In Game 2, Pittsburgh found themselves trailing 6-3 going into the seventh inning. All fine and dandy until they failed to cash in once again with two on and nobody out.
There is a pattern here, right?
Even though they managed to take four of five from the Cardinals two weeks ago, there were similar scenarios there too.
It has come to the point where many fans around the country are pulling for the Pittsburgh Pirates just because it a great story. This team is flat-out fun to watch.
What’s not to love? They have a great pitching staff led by AJ Burnett who absolutely loves the city and its fans. He has been able to rejuvenate his career in a city where the fans acknowledge him and vice versa.
Andrew McCutchen is one of the game’s elite players and arguably the best 5-tool player in the game. They manufacture runs in dramatic walk-off fashion. They play small ball instead of blowing opponents out of the water with home runs. And for the first time since 1972, they sent five players to the All-Star Game last month.
There is no doubt (at least in this writer’s mind) that the losing streak will finally come to an end this season. Finally, after twenty consecutive seasons of sub .500 ball, the Pirates are on pace to win over 90 games.
But there is a small problem and it lies on the shoulders of the management (cue Darth Vadar theme).
Leading up to the trade deadline, many analysts and experts expected the Pirates to be one of the big buyers on July 31.The fact is this was one of the most uneventful non-waiver trade deadlines in years, General Manager Neil Huntington was indeed doing everything he could.
Fans tend to point the finger and persist on stating the obvious, “We need another bat in this lineup!” Trust me, they know.
Huntington spent a lot of the day trying to deal for Mark Trumbo of the Los Angeles Angels (who for some reason, felt they were still in the hunt). He even looked at other options such as Alex Rios and Nate Schierholtz.
The team as of right now, may have made the best move by not making any. Reason being they now know for a fact after the Colorado series and even the Miami series last week they absolutely positively need a bat, preferably someone who can hit with runners in scoring position.
Here are the cold hard facts.
The Pirates will break the 20-year curse. They have a solid chance of winning the Central Division. They will even make the postseason with the tremendous depth in their pitching staff. Hell, they even have a shot at making some noise in October. How much noise? We do not know yet until they solidify the lineup with the necessities that will make this ballclub complete.
Pittsburgh has been able to win a ton of games by scores of 2-1, 3-2 and 4-2. But in order for them to go beyond the winning season, they need to make a move before August 31. This needs to be the year where the management of the organization says “a winning season is not enough.”
Imagine the Pirates riding into the postseason this year, knocking out teams and gaining momentum from the fan base, not just in Pittsburgh, but fans all over the country who are cheering on for baseball’s next Cinderella.