This weekend went about as badly for the Pirates as you would've dared to believe that it could on Friday. Not only did the Pirates lose three times, but they got blown off of the field three times in the sort of fashion that leaves you turning the Sunday game off in the second inning when you it's 5-0 and Charlie Morton is leaving the game with some kind of injury, and telling the trainer that, "I felt it pop."
The "it" in that sentence turned out to be Morton's foot and not his surgically repaired elbow, which might end up being the best news that the Pirates get out of this lost weekend in St. Louis. I'll reserve judgment on that for now; Morton is probably already back in Pittsburgh to be examined by doctors (the Pirates will be home on Thursday, so he doesn't need to be in Texas with the team anyway) and feet are rather important to pitchers. If he did any sort of actual damage to a bone or ligament in his foot, well, he wouldn't have to be out long to be out for the rest of the season.
Morton aside, Sunday's game was just an extenuation of Friday and Saturday. The Cardinals hit the ball and moved around the bases often, while the Pirates did not. There's not much else to say at this point. The Cardinals swept the Pirates, the Reds swept the Dodgers, and five days after the Pirates had 81 wins and a two-game lead in the Central, they're 1 1/2 behind the Cardinals and tied with the Reds. The Bucs now go to Texas to face a Ranger team that needs wins as desperately as they do; the Rangers are 1 1/2 games behind the A's in the AL West and have a comfortable-but-not-quite-insurmountable five-game lead over the Orioles for the last wild card spot. The Cardinals and Reds, meanwhile, will be hosting the Brewers and Cubs this week. The Pirates' schedule softens up soon, too, with eight straight games against the Cubs and Padres after the Rangers series. The thing is, they have to get past the Rangers without dropping another three games in the standings for them to be able to take advantage of the easier schedule (and, of course, they may have to manage whatever comes beyond this series without Morton, which I suppose we can talk about when we get to it).
The baseball season is long and it's full of twists and turns. On Tuesday night, the Pirates had won five of six and seemed to be cruisng towards 82 and beyond, with a chance to put some distance between them and the Cardinals on the horizon. We've reached that horizon and it turns out that the Pirates are behind by more than a game. Let's hope that this season's got one more upswing for the Pirates left in it.
This team has the potential to win the division.
Unfortunately for us, this team also has the potential to finish the season 0-20. (0-24, actually, but the first 4 of those are already in the bag.)
What has been most troubling for me hasn't been the hitting, or the pitching, but the return to bad baseball: the bad fundamentals in the field and on the bases, the mental lapses, and the questionable coaching. That was why we felt out of the game after the 3rd inning on Sunday. When the team is playing good baseball, 5 runs feels like a challenge rather than a wall. Yeah, 5 runs, but they pick up a couple here, a couple there, and all of a sudden a couple hits and the Bucs win!
Look at the shoulders slumping, watch the way they go about their business. This team needs a couple breaks in a row to get their mojo back.
What made the weekend worse for me was the Redlegs sweep of the Dodgers; each game was tight and Cincy found a way in each game to beat powerful LA. I'm trying not to be a huge pessimist but it became obvious to me this weekend that our Buccos are pretenders, at least compared to StL and Cincy. Yes, we still should limp into a one-game wild card playoff - but I'm even beginning to wonder if Hurdle's club will be fading away into embarrassment these next 3 weeks.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I'm gonna choke the next pundit who intones "Well, the Cardinals have been here before, while this is the Pirates first go-round." Well, Burnett's been in a pennant race or two, and that didn't seem to help his feel for the curveball on Friday, and of course the Pirates were beaten by those two grizzled veterans Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha as well. Stupid garbage like that makes me crazy.
This is meaningful September baseball. A week ago, the Cardinals could be forgiven for thinking that their season was over. Now look at them. All it takes is another good run for the Pirates and they can get right back up to the top. Things like this are exactly what makes this month exciting.
Don't stop believing...hold on to that feeling.
I believe it can be said that this was a set back and not the end of the season without sounding like the Iraqi Information Minister
@mwr505 Keep in mind that the Pirates won the season series against the Cardinals, and are currently winning the season series against the Reds. Undeniably they're limping now, but I'd say that's mostly due to pitching injuries and a streaky offense currently in slump mode, rather than being pretenders. You could make an argument that the Pirates are, top-to-bottom, the least deep team in the NL playoff field, but they are still a team that deserves to make the playoffs. And once in October, the made-for-TV schedule means you don't have to have the deepest team to win it all.
@mwr505 I know what you're saying, but they aren't pretenders. They've played even with the best teams in the NL to this point. Those other teams, their falterings came earlier in the year. The Bucs, theirs have been the last 20 games. But right now, everyone is pretty much even. Anything can happen, starting tonight.
But yeah, the Bucs need a break. Beating Yu Darvish 1-0 would be a good start. Let's go Gerritt.
@Eephus Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.