God dammit. I picked the worst year to start a blog. Not because the Pirates are disappointing or because they aren’t doing well or anything; I think the team this year is fascinating and they’ve been playing out of their mind since the weird deadline moves and they’re doing all this despite Andrew McCutchen not playing to his standards (although, after many false alarms, he miiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhhhtttttt finally be coming around, just in time for the stretch run). I say this because I’ve been busy as shit this summer and haven’t had as much time as I’d like to write the blog.
But boy, what a season it’s been, huh? After being out of the division, then convincing ourselves we were back in it 4.0 games out from the Cubs what seems like ages ago, then having a crazy awful slide through June to put them out of everything, then having a stellar last couple weeks to put them back in the race. And playing against contenders, no less!
I’m enjoying watching all of this and you should be too. It’s mid-August and, for the fourth straight year, the Pirates are in contention for a playoff spot. No, they aren’t going to win the division and yes, the Wild Card Game sucks, but to be honest, they might have a decent shot this year if they’re playing the Dodgers sans Kershaw. This is a goal to aspire too.
So what will it take? Looking at the remainder of the schedule, the big series seem to be the Marlins starting tomorrow, the Cardinals starting September 5, and the Cardinals again starting September 30. And that’s about it in terms of big series. Other than that, the Pirates play a lot of cellar-dwellers, which includes series in September against the Brewers, Reds, Phillies, Reds, and Brewers. September callups put the Pirates in a great position against these bad teams, as the Pirates deep bullpen and bench will be a huge advantage against the minor leaguers that these squads are trying to get some Big League experience for.
So in short, I like the Pirates’ odds and I really like the way they’ve been playing lately. Take notice of the fact that McCutchen is starting to come on. He’s hit a few home runs and generally just looks…better at the plate. Hopefully this is the spark the Pirates need to really push it over the top and get into the playoffs, and the timing seems good with Taillon and Kuhl pitching well and the other starts not pitching like Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano circa early 2016.
This Marlins series this weekend is HUGE, though. If you want to make the playoffs, you gotta beat the other contenders, especially when there are four teams vying for essentially one spot (unless the Giants completely collapse, in which case it could be two spots — here’s to hoping, if only so we don’t have to hear the “even year” bullshit for the next two plus years). The Pirates are on a roll and the Marlins are hurting and at this point, it’s anyone’s race. I’m excited, though – this is what baseball is all about.