The Plight of the Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not finished above .500 since 1992. You probably know this. Last season on July 25 the Pirates were in first place in the NL Central at 53-47. You probably know what happened after that. They went 19-43 the rest of the way to finish at 72-90, which was the most wins they’d had since 1994.

This year, on July 28 the Pirates were in 2nd place in the NL Central at 58-42. They improved their team at the deadline, trading for Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider. They were poised to make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Except, they went 6-11 in their next 17 games to fall to 64-53. Nothing to worry about though, they were still tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for 2nd in the NL Central – and the 2nd NL Wildcard. The Pirates would get through it this year. No more teasing their fans with playoff hopes and aspirations like they did in 2011.

The Pirates would win 3 of their next 4 – including a 19 inning marathon against the Cardinals. Not an actual marathon. A really long game. Pittsburgh was back. They were going to the post-season. Except, they lost their next four games in a row. Still, no need to worry, it was just a hangover from the 19 inning game. Once they got rested they’d turn it around. Still tons of time left in the season. The Pirates would split the next two against the Brewers to bring their record to 68-59. They were two back of the Cardinals for the 2nd Wildcard. And what-do-you-know, the Cards were coming to town for a three game set! The perfect opportunity for the Pirates to gain some ground, which they did – taking 2 out of 3. Next up was a three game set against the Brewers. No big deal. Except the Pirates got swept, dropping their record to 70-63. Luckily the Cards lost a couple as well, allowing the Pirates to stay two games back.

Which brings us to yesterday- September 3rd. The start of a 3 game series against Houston. You may know what happened. The Pirates lost. Their record dropped to 70-64. The Cardinals won, meaning that the Pirates are now 3 games back. According to Baseball Prospectus’s hit list, the Pirates now have a 11.2% chance of making the playoffs. It’s not getting any easier. After the first 100 games of the season the Pirates were 58-42. Since then, they are 12-22. There’s now a very real possibility that the Pirates won’t finish over .500 this year, let alone make the playoffs. They have 28 games left. If they go 11-17, they would finish at exactly .500. Something tells me the Pittsburgh fan base may not be thrilled about finishing at .500 for the first time in 20 years.

But wait! As I write this, the Pirates are up 6-0 on the Astros. There’s hope! But, the Cardinals are winning too. Damn.

What will happen with the Pirates this year? Will they be satisfied with a .500 finish? Will they somehow have a miracle September and sneak into the playoffs? Or will they wilt away and finish under .500 for the 20th straight season? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future.

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