The Pittsburgh Pirates rode into Chicago feeling high after sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in a four game series for the first time ever. That good feeling would not last long. The Pirates were able to get to SP Jake Arrieta and went into the 8th inning with a three run lead, but the one two punch of RP Neftali Feliz and CP Tony Watson blew the save and led to extra innings. In the 13th the Pirates scratched a run across, but once again the bullpen couldn’t keep the Chicago Cubs down and the Cubs left with the win. The Cubs rode that momentum to sweep the Pirates, although the Bucs fought back in the final game and almost tied it in the 9th.
The Pirates got a chance to rest on Thursday and try and get over two one-run losses to the best team in baseball. The Brew Crew traveled to Pittsburgh and toyed with the team. The Pirates were shut out in two of the games and outscored 18-4. The first game was painful to watch, as the Pirates got men on base and couldn’t do anything with it. The second game was just as bad because Ivan Nova did a great job but the bullpen imploded in the eighth, after Andrew McCutchen tied it.
Finally, the Pirates were swept in a game that looks way worse on paper, but again the bullpen heard Commissioner Manfred’s call for more offense and let the floodgates open.
- 8/29 Pittsburgh 7 Chicago 8 in 13 innings
- 8/30 Pittsburgh 0, Chicago 3
- 8/31 Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 6
- 9/2 Milwaukee 1, Pittsburgh 0
- 9/3 Milwaukee 7, Pittsburgh 4
- 9/4 Milwaukee 10, Pittsburgh 0
Notables in the Week:
- No offense but…: Pirates hitters collectively hit .222/.311/.335 in the last week (basically the Pirates were pre-breakout Wil Myers). Those numbers are all well below normal for the 2016 Pirates. They also hit into six ground ball double plays during the week, quickly erasing any hope of a rally throughout the week. As bad as the offense has been, there are a couple glimmers of hope: McCutchen is hitting much better in the last month, Jung Ho Kang is coming off the DL and can sub in for the freezing David Freese (.222/.325/.278 in last 28 days), and the Pirates were really unlucky this past week (.264 BAbip vs .309 for the season).
- LOBsters everywhere: The Pirates left 22 runners on base against the Brewers. They also had one hit in the entire series with a runner in scoring position. Looks like it’s time for another lineup shake up.
- The bullpen finally breaks: Going into this week the Pirates bullpen had been one of the top bullpens post All-star break. Cracks began to show as the Pirates had three almost blown saves the week prior. On Monday, the bullpen blew a two different leads, allowing the Cubs to win in extra innings. Then the bullpen didn’t allow a run for three straight games. On Saturday the flood gates opened, the bullpen used five pitchers in two innings allowing a total of five runs to cross. They squandered a six inning two-run effort by Ivan Nova and they couldn’t keep the Brewers from extending their lead after the Pirates had fought back. It got worse on Sunday when the bullpen turned a one run deficit into five that then became ten. The only bright news in the ‘pen was that Tony Watson got a lot of rest and a couple of errors and close plays lead to the breakdown.
- Injuries and reinforcements: First the good news is 3B Kang has finished his rehab assignment and will rejoin the team immediately, and SP Gerrit Cole is slated to start sometime in the next two weeks. The Pirates also got backup C Chris Stewart back for the first time since July 2nd. Now the bad news is C Francisco Cervelli was hit by a pitch in the arm on Saturday and is experiencing “left thumb discomfort” and now Day-to-Day. Neftali Feliz was taken out of the game on Saturday after throwing a pitch and being visibly in pain. Not much is known about the injury except it is not severe and Feliz is feeling better.
- Minor League pitchers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez were traded to the Pirates as the PTBNL from the RP Arquimedes Caminero trade.
- 3B Jason Rogers was officially promoted to the team after the rosters expanded.
- Chris Stewart was activated from his 15-day DL stint and rehab assignment.
The Wild Card Race
The Pirates are 3-7 in their last 10 games (losing seven straight) and are starting to lose major ground from the second Wild Card spot. The New York Mets have leapfrogged in front of the Pirates, increasing the number of teams the Pirates must get ahead of to two. After only being 1.5 GB of the second wild card spot, Pirates fans are feeling a bit like this.
- First WC: San Francisco Giants: 0.5 games ahead of the 2nd WC spot, 4-6 in last 10 games.
- Second WC: St. Louis Cardinals: 4.5 games ahead of the Pirates, 5-5 in last 10 games.
- New York Mets: 1 games ahead of the Pirates, 7-3 in last 10 games.
- Miami Marlins: 0.5 game behind the Pirates, 1-9 in last 10 games.
- Colorado Rockies: 2.5 games behind the Pirates, 6-4 in last 10 games.
The Pirates have to shake off the horrendous week they just had and start winning consistently. It’s not panic time yet but it’s getting closer and closer. The Pirates start off with a gigantic series when the Cardinals come into town. The Pirates don’t have to sweep, but they need to get a series win to feel good. If the Pirates are swept, then the panic button has to be pushed, and the Pirates would have to win every series from here on out to not be desperate in the final week. After the big pressure of the Cardinals series, the Pirates face off against the Cincinnati Reds for four games. This is a below average team that the Pirates should and must beat. However, the Pirates should have beaten the Brewers last week, and instead they got swept. The Pirates have barely out-competed the Reds all year (6-5, +1 run differential). At this point in time the Pirates are enigma, and the only thing certain is that time is running out. If the Buccos repeat last week, consider the season sunk.