While the Reds and Giants clinched their respective divisions with wins on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Pirates continued their assault on the record for most consecutive losing seasons. The Astros 4-1 win over Pittsburgh dropped the Buccos to 74-77 on the year. After staying in contention for the first five months the Pirates now appear to be headed for their twentieth losing season in succession. Yes, an entire generation of Pirates fans can identify with their team as nothing more than loveable losers.
But this 2012 Pirates team was supposed to break the streak. After all, they had made tremendous strides last season under the expert tutelage of Clint Hurdle. Pittsburgh’s talented group of youngsters were coming of age and were ready to take it to another level.
After stumbling out of the gate offensively the 2012 Pirates started to put it all together. Newly acquired pitcher A.J. Burnett turned out to be exactly what the team needed, an ace. Burnett and James McDonald combined to produce a 19-5 record and the Pirates were in first place at the All-Star break. Andrew McCutchen was having an MVP-type season and Pedro Alvarez had found his power stroke. Joel Hanrahan was having another outstanding season at the back end of the bullpen and everything seemed to be clicking.
In late July the Pirates bolstered their rotation by acquiring Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. In his Pirates debut on July 28 Wandy beat his old team and the Pirates had a two-game lead in the race for the second wildcard spot. But then, things started to go downhill. The losses started to come more frequently and eventually snowballed into a full-blown collapse.
Last night’s loss was the fifth straight for the Pirates and their thirteenth in the last fifteen games. With only eleven games remaining in the season the Pirates find themselves out of playoff contention and are unlikely to finish with a winning record. I don’t know exactly what happened to cause their tailspin but if the last two games against the Astros are any indication I can venture a guess.
A lack of offense and some poor defensive play attributed to last night’s loss. The Buccos couldn’t solve Dallas Keuchel. The Astros soft-tossing lefty, who has been anything but stellar against the rest of the league, held the Pirates to only one hit over his last six innings of work. An error by Clint Barmes in the seventh inning paved the way for Jason Castro‘s go-ahead homer. Kevin Correia left the game having fanned a career high nine, but the lack of support contributed to his tenth loss of the year.
Friday’s game saw Fernando Rodriguez pick up his second win of the season by pitching three & 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. What more can I say. Obviously the Pirates have lost their mojo.
It’s been almost twenty years since Atlanta’s Sid Bream slid into home plate ahead of Barry Bonds‘ throw to win Game 7 of the 1992 N.L.C.S. and the Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to recover. Another losing season will extend their record for the longest run of futility in the history of sports. Most Pittsburgh fans have already turned their attention to their beloved Steelers, who have won two Super Bowls and appeared in two more since the Pirates last finished above .500. Hang in there Pirates fans. Maybe 2013 will be your year.