I'm not here to say that yesterday's loss didn't suck. There was bad pitching, bad hitting, bad defense, bad managing, bad umpiring, and all kinds of lousy things that made me just want to shove the game into the back of my mind, watch Breaking Bad, and go to bed without thinking or writing too much about the game.
One of the best things about baseball is one of the hardest things to manage about it from a day-to-day perspective; more games does a better job of separating the good from the bad, but makes each individual result less meaningful. That's what's particularly stressful about the playoffs: you can spend 162 games building something and lose all of it over a weekend. Losing three games in a row to the Rockies doesn't mean any more or less than taking four of five from the Cardinals, but it is the immediate reality of the Pirates and so it weighs heavily.
Anyway, I know that spelling this out risks seeming patronizing, and that's not my intent here. My point is that the Pirates are playing a longer game than one that can be affected by three losses to the Rockies. When the Cardinals left PNC Park on August 1st, the Pirates had a 1 1/2 game lead on them with nine games against the Rockies and Marlins on the schedule before a looming rematch with the Cardinals. The goals at that point for the nine games were pretty straightforward: 1.) stay in first place and 2.) build the lead, if possible. The Pirates have doubled that 1 1/2 game lead and the fact that they only went 5-4 to do it or that they lost three in a row to the Rockies is academic.
Beyond that? Peaks and valleys. The Pirates played well at home, which gave them enough of a buffer to absorb a bad series in Colorado, so long as it remains a bad series in Colorado and not a bad road trip or a two-week swoon. In the end, there's just not a lot else to say. The Pirates have avoided the Grand Canyon thus far in 2013; what matters now is staying out of it in the last 45 games.
Here's the thing, though. And I'm pretty sure I represent just about all Pirates fans on this.
First, this team feels different. Yeah, we're all aware of how thin the talent is, but at least it's really good talent. So, the team feels different. Last year's team hit better in June and July, but this team has better fundamentals, especially on the bases and in the field. It's OK to throw the ball into the stands as long as you're throwing it to the right base.
Second, if the collapse is coming, this is the start of it. Because as different as this team feels, we can't unremember last year, or the year before. 10-35? Yeah, we've seen THAT before.
Third, that is what makes the next three games much more important TO US FANS than they are to the standings. As fans, in order to erase the stigma of the past from our minds we need to see a non-collapse, here, and now. We need to see 2-1 or 3-0 in St Louis, not because of the standings but because believing in the Pirates is different than believing in the Steelers. Right now, believing in the Pirates means understanding that you might have to believe another couple or three more years, or maybe it's knowing that there might be a hint of light that you think you might see behind that cloud that fills the sky all the way to the horizon. In order to change that (and really only to change that for 2013), we need to see at least 2-1.