These days, even when the Pittsburgh Pirates win, they do it when nobody is watching. The Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs last night (or early this morning), 3-0, in a game that started at 11:40 EST due to a rain-delay that lasted three hour and 35 minutes. I guess since we're heading down the final stretch of the season, MLB REALLY wanted to get this game in. And I guess since there were playoff "implications," it was paramount that last night's game was played. The Cubs fans in attendance, and the Pirates fans who stayed up late to watch this game on TV can thank MLB for that second wild card that was added to the mix for this season, because that's the only reason that this game was even played. The Atlanta Braves are well ahead of the rest of the pack in the wild card standings and will surely wrap up that first spot any day now. To give you some perspective, right now, the Pirates find themselves 2.5 games out for the second wild card spot in the NL, but they're 11 games back of the Braves for the first spot. So, a season ago, last night's game may have been called and everyone sent home, beings that it would have been damn-near impossible for the Pirates to catch Atlanta for the one and only wild card spot.
If the tone of this blog seems pessimistic, that's because I'm very much in a negative state about the Pirates. To say that I had Bucco Fever for the better part of the summer would be an understatement. I was IN LOVE with this team, and I was actually interested in baseball again. After starting out 20-24 with virtually no offense, the Pirates went on a 40-20 tear and led MLB in home runs and runs scored at one point. It was awesome. It was magical.
They found themselves 16 games over .500 in early August and had a four game lead in the wild card standings. Since that time, they've gone 14-28, and have fallen into a crowded race for that second wild card spot. The fact that Pittsburgh is only 2.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals should tell you all you need to know about the golden opportunity that this team has squandered. Had the Pirates simply gone 21-21 over the past 42 games--which shouldn't be too much to ask for a contender--they would not only be at the 81 win mark, they'd be 4.5 games up in the wild card standings, and instead of the local papers printing "magic number countdowns" to break the losing streak, we'd have a very tangible magic number to clinch a playoff berth.
The Cardinals have been pretty atrocious lately, and the Pirates have actually had their way with St. Louis, winning six of the last nine games played between the two teams. However, the Pirates simply can't defeat anyone else, and they're getting embarrassed by teams like the Cubs.
I suppose I should be happy that the Pirates took two of the last three games in Chicago, but after finally breaking their seven game losing streak on Saturday, the Pirates were up 6-1 and then 9-5 to Chicago on Sunday before giving up eight straight runs from the 5th inning on and lost, 13-9. To me, that's where I lost all hope that this team actually has what it takes to get on any kind of roll down the stretch.
Tonight, the Milwaukee Brewers come to town, and if you can believe it, they have caught the Pirates in the standings and have the same 74-72 record. Milwaukee was a joke not even a month ago, but thanks to our Buccos, who dropped five out of six to them in recent weeks, the Brewers were able to get healthy, and they're now doing some wild card dreaming of their own.
I'm not very hopeful. Just give me seven more wins, Pirates. At least that way, you won't be losers for a 20th straight season.