It’s my birthday and today and I woke up to a text from my friend Tim saying “As a gift to you, the Pirates can’t lose another game today!” That’s the kind of week the Pirates are having, the one in which an off day is considered good news. (Incidentally, the Pirates have only won three times on my birthday in the last 15 years.)
(Sidebar: Tim is a really talented musician in Pittsburgh, here's his website and check out one of his shows if you live in Pittsburgh! You won’t regret it.)
This Cubs series was a real bummer; there’s not really any way I can see to rationalize this and downplay it. It’s May, it’s early in the season, but these divisional losses are shitty. The way the Pirates’ offense was rolling, I envisioned this series being the Pirates’ announcement to the league that they’re the real deal and are going to be legitimate contenders for the division title this year, and that’s basically the opposite of what happened.
The Pirates offense stagnated and the pitching was, in short, terrible. Remember some of those comfortable wins last week against the Reds and Rockies? That’s how the Cubs felt against the Pirates in this series. There are gleeful Cubs fans around the country right now with their Twitter fingers firing on all cylinders, talking about how great Joe Maddon and Jake Arrieta and the Cubs are, and it’s a little infuriating. Some are even telling Pirates fans why we should want the Cubs to win, which is like a DH supporter telling Bob Walk why the DH is an important part of baseball. Walk isn’t going to listen and the DH supporter is wrong. The worst part is, Cubs fans have every reason to gloat. The Pirates didn’t score enough runs in the entire series to win even one of the games. It stings all the more because the Pirates seemed to have a lot of momentum coming into this series.
The good news is that it seems like Jung-Ho Kang is coming back after the off day today. Jason Rogers got optioned to AAA Indianapolis and, given that May 10 is the final day Kang’s eligible to be in a rehab assignment, he’s likely to make his triumphant return to Pittsburgh. I suppose it’s possible the Pirates call up a bullpen arm since they used the bullpen so much this series, but the off day today should help mitigate weariness from that and allow the Kang callup on Friday.
I would say I hope Kang energizes the lineup (I bet trainers have told him to limit his dugout dancing due to the injury), but I think it’s the rotation that needs energized. Glasnow and Taillon won’t be available until June, and who knows what kind of innings limits they’ll have (especially Taillon). It doesn’t get easier or less important for the Pirates in the coming days, with a roadtrip around the Midwest starting in St. Louis, the heading to Chicago via Cincinnati.
It’s not time to panic yet, but if you are panicking, that seems like a perfectly acceptable response at this point. Hopefully something clicks and these guys can get it together for one month until the reinforcements come, and even then, nothing is guaranteed.