I was set to put up a quick summary of yesterday’s game and where the Pirates are in their playoff quest when I came into lab this morning, only to find out that the Pirates had demoted Gregory Polanco to make room for Clint Barmes. So let’s start there, obviously.
I see a lot of grumbling about this move online, but honestly, I don’t see a huge problem here. Polanco is obviously struggling right now (he’s 1-for-his-last-30 since the Pirates’ now-concluded seven-game losing streak began almost two weeks ago), Travis Snider is hitting, and keeping Polanco on the bench doesn’t do much for anybody. Indianapolis’s season ends one week from today, so he’ll be back on Tuesday the 2nd. There are some playoff roster considerations to worry about with him now (there’s no one on the 60-day DL at the moment, so there’s not an obvious spot to put him on the roster, though that can be adjusted, of course)
It initially looked like Clint Barmes was going to fill his spot, but now it’s being reported that Jose Tabata will take his place. I’m a little surprised that it’s Tabata over Lambo, since Lambo is slugging over .500 and has four homers in his last four games, but then, Tabata’s hitting well lately, too, and I’m guessing that his being right-handed is the main reason for this decision. The Pirates have plenty of left-handed hitters that can’t hit left-handed pitching as it is.
Anyway, the Pirates lost a winnable game to the Brewers yesterday, 4-3. I missed almost the whole game because I was, wait for it, brewing beer, and so my general impression of it was this: the Brewers scored two runs in the second inning thanks to some questionable defense from Andrew McCutchen on Carlos Gomez’s double, the Pirates never got much of anything going against Mike Fiers, and they came up just short of coming back in the ninth.
Honestly, under about 95% of all circumstances, I’d say that the series in Milwaukee was a great result for the Pirates. They played well in all three games, they mostly crushed the ball, they won a series in Miller Park, they didn’t really pitch poorly at any point in the weekend, McCutchen’s bat is starting to come around, Alvarez hit some home runs, and I could probably keep going. The problem is this: sometimes, a game really is a must-win game. I said this all weekend but I’ll reiterate it here: a three game deficit and a five-game deficit on August 25th are worlds different from each other. It’s obviously not impossible for the Pirates to erase a five-game lead from here, but it’s not something I’d be counting on. That’s disappointing to me, but that’s something we can get into at another time.
Anyway, the good news is that the Pirates are very much back in the wild card race; they’re 3 1/2 behind the Cards, 1 1/2 behind the Giants, and 1/2 behind the Braves. Their season will be what they make of it in these final five weeks.