This recap is late coming because I'm just not sure there's much to say about yesterday's game: Ryan Vogelsong absolutely dominated the Pirates, and any chance that the Pirates had to comeback was spoiled by AJ Burnett being left on the mound for an inning too long. That's pretty much it. The Pirates had an opportunity over the weekend to finish their road trip with a big exclamation point, and instead they lost two games with their two best pitchers on the mound and will head home tied for first place in the NL Central.
I get that there's something of a sense that the Pirates leaving games on the table down the stretch here with the division hanging in the balance is a very "Piratesy" thing to do. That it's this year's version of "THE COLLAPSE," now that a similar collapse to the one that we saw last year doesn't appear to be coming. It's certainly true that the Pirates' lives would be much easier right now if they had a win in Colorado, an extra win against St. Louis, an extra win against Arizona, and an extra win against the Giants in the bank right now, but now you've suddenly jumped the Pirates to 80 wins and that puts them two wins clear of even the Braves.
My point is this: in a narrowly decided division, which the NL Central is almost certain to be at this point, the difference between the team that wins and the team that loses is going to be very narrow. If the NL Central winner has 95 wins and the second place team has 94 wins, that means that you only have to dig through the 68 losses to find one or two bad ones to play the "what if" game. Whoever wins the Central, the two teams that come up short will have more than their share of games to wonder about. That holds true for the Pirates, the Reds, and the Cardinals all the same.
When the Pirates set off for their west coast trip, I figured that they needed four wins to stay in first place. They got four wins, they're still in first place. The details of those four wins are unimportant, because the last month of baseball in the NL Central is going to be wild. The Pirates have 32 games left. Six of them are against the Cardinals and six of them are against the Reds. The Cardinals also have 32 games left; six against the Pirates are seven against the Reds. The Reds have 31 games left, and 13 of them are against the Pirates and Reds. The Cardinals don't play a team other than the Pirates or Reds until September 9th.
Whatever it is that will decide the NL Central is yet to come.
The frustrating thing about this particular game is that Hurdle threw it on purpose to make his point to Burnett that he's in charge. It's no coincidence that 1 start after he had his little blowup with Burnett in the dugout about Burnett telling the bullpen to sit down, that Hurdle decides to leave him in the game LONG after he normally would have pulled somebody. Find one other game when Hurdle has EVER left a pitcher in for 116 pitches...especially after it's obvious the pitcher is gassed. Hurdle is notorious for early hooks and never leaves somebody into the 8th to get hammered like this.
Make no mistake, this was intentional. If the Pirates lose the division or wildcard by 1 game I hope Hurdle feels like it was worth it.
You are far too optimistic. I wish I could be but I fail to see anything but reality...The Bucs are badly leaking oil as they face the final month of the season. Perhaps a face or two from AAA on Sept 1st will help save the day or maybe NH will find a way to justify getting a waiver deal done to help out the club - but I doubt it. The arms are tired or becoming suspect and unreliable as compared to May/June/July and the current offensive lineup is so sadly inept at times. With Marte gone for another week it's gonna be tough even to play .500 while he's hurt on DL. Other than Garrett Jones' HR on Friday in SF, he's been absolutely worthless since the AS break. How Hurdle can daily write "Jones" on the lineup card is beyond me. ?
I hate to make Pirates fans nervous, but I think you're being far too optimistic. I think that in fact the Pirates have very little chance at winning the division and are far from assured of being in the playoffs at all.
First off there's the problem that the Pirates are not as good as the Cardinals or Reds or probably even the Diamondbacks. The lineup overachieved for two-thirds of the year, but that's over now and it's a bad lineup. They can't score runs unless the other team's starting pitcher shows up with nothing. And their rotation has been a strength, but Locke is finished, Burnett is flagging and every game pitched by Liriano without breaking down is a bonus. So they won't likely hang with St. Louis and Cincinnati. I think they'll likely finish at least 5-6 games back of both.
They're still up 8.5 on the Diamondbacks, but have you looked at the schedule? Of the Pirates' 32 remaining games, 15 are against playoff teams (Cardinals, Reds, and three games in Texas the Pirates will be lucky if they can win one of); of the Diamondbacks' remaining 33 games, only 7 are against playoff teams (all the Dodgers, who are going to cool off by the time Arizona plays them). 8.5 is a lot of ground to cover in five weeks, but a scenario where the Pirates finish 9-23 (ending up 85-77) while the Diamondbacks finish 20-13 (ending up 86-76) is far from unfathomable.
I think next year's team has a chance to be really good if they can sign a starting pitcher or preferably two. I desperately want someone other than Clint Hurdle managing it.
@justinzeth The Pirates are 5 wins over their theoretical W/L. That's good, but not unheard of. The Reds are 2 wins over. The Cards are 5 games unde. Wwhich you can interpret to mean that they are losing games they should have won, which many consider to be the sign of a team in trouble. I would think that there are more things wrong with a team 5 games underperforming than there are with a team 5 games overperforming.
Head to head with the Reds and Cards they are 7-6 and 8-5... or more illustratively, the Reds are 6-7 against the Pirates, and the Cards are 5-8. So when it comes down to it, the Bucs are winning against the best competition they face. 3-4 against the Braves? That's OK. 2-4 against the Dodgers... the Dodgers are good. But add 'em up. Pittsburgh is 20-19 against 1st place and prospective wild card teams. Add in the D-backs and they're 23-22. And that means that they're as good as their best competition... not on paper, but on the field, where it counts.
It's freakin' awesome. I mean, really. I'm pissed when they lose not because they're awful. And not because they're in the middle of a collapse. I'm pissed because I want them to stay in FIRST PLACE. I don't want to put it all on a play-in game. IMO give the Pirates a 5 or 7 game set and they can take 3 or 4 from the best in baseball. It won't be pretty, and they might get outscored. But they could lose that play-in game before they get a chance.
So, I'm pissed because I think we can win it all. And that's great.
@justinzeth The lineup has overachieved? They haven't scored runs all year. If they had overachieved, they'd be in a better spot. This team is all about pitching, if that stays strong, they'll have a good shot at the division.
@MattGajtka Yeah, that's just the thing--they've had guys overachieving and still were mediocre-to-below-average at run scoring. Now that guys like Marte and Martin are cooling off a bit it's become just a really bad lineup.
They still play great defense, of course, but even with good pitching and great defense, it's hard to win games when you only score 2 or 3 runs.
You are kidding about the Reds,right ? That team takes one look at a Cardinal uniform and they wet the bed. Their starters besides Cueto and Latos are shaky at best,and whoknows what will come out of that bullpen : see last night for an example. As for the D-Backs,they react the same way when looking at the Dodgers. Next up ?
It seems unthinkable but in a late-and-close game, with runners on base, if a lefty is brought in to face Pedro, I want Hurdle to consider a pinch hitter.
@Ugarles Alvarez should not be batting behind McCutchen, ever, period. And he definitely should be lifted for a pinch hitter when the LOOGY comes in--if a passable righthanded hitter is on the bench. Alvarez hits like a pitcher against LOOGYs.
@justinzeth @Ugarles I realize this is hyperbole, but Alvarez's OPS against LHP* is .600; Pirates' pitchers have an aggregate OPS of .224. NL pitchers overall have an OPS of .336, and the team with the best-hitting pitchers** is the Dodgers, whose pitchers have an OPS of .445.
* BB-Ref doesn't have crosstabs (split vs LH RP, vs split vs LHP, split vs RP); however, I would note that overall, Alvarez's OPS against RP first appearance is .666, which is higher than his overall OPS vs LHP; this indicates he's likely not doing worse against LHRP than he is against LHP overall.
** Omitting the Tigers (OPS .600) and Royals (OPS .571) due to SSS (19 and 23 PAs, respectively).