Both yesterday and today, I thought about writing a post that sums up my frustrations with this Pirate team at the moment, talking about why the Pirates falling apart this year seems more frustrating to me than the epic, painful, disastrous collapses of 2011 and 2012 (note: more frustrating, not “worse” or “more painful” or what have you). And on both days, I decided to put the post on the shelf for now, because the Pirates, at the very least, deserve a chance to play their way out of this slump with their best players before we all give up on the 2014 season entirely.
Andrew McCutchen is back, starting in center field, and batting third tonight. I certainly can’t help but wonder if he can be anywhere near full strength given the nature of a rib fracture, his style of play, and the short period of time between his injury and tonight, but, as I’ve said in the past, doubting Andrew McCutchen is a good way to set yourself up to be wrong. Certainly, just the idea of getting the MVP back is something that can help pull the Pirates out of their second-half low-point, even if he’s not a full strength for another week or two.
Jordy Mercer is back tonight, too, which means no Brent Morel or Jayson Nix in the starting lineup. With McCutchen and Mercer both starting, the Pirates have a semblance of the lineup that’s capable of lighting up even the best starting pitchers on the field again. With Pedro Alvarez, Gaby Sanchez, and Gregory Polanco (Travis Snider is starting in right field and it’s hard to say he hasn’t earned it with his play of late) on the bench tonight, the Pirates have some viable pinch-hitting options. The Pirates might not be quite armed and fully-operational, but they’re much closer to that today than they were yesterday.
Francisco Liriano starts for the Pirates tonight. He has been good but frustrating in the second half, in that his starts often seems to teeter on a knife’s blade between being no-hitter-level-quality and being the bad Francisco Liriano we saw in much of the first half. Simply put, the Pirates need him and they need tomorrow’s starter (Gerrit Cole) to be both consistent and consistently good if they’re going to get back to the top of the wild card race.
This last week has been bad. It may have been bad enough to eliminate the Pirates from the NL Central race. It has certainly not yet been bad enough to knock them out of the wild card race. The time to turn things around is upon this team, but at least they’ll be able to try to do so with their best players on the field. The first pitch is at 7:05.