It’s getting difficult to write about the Pirates with Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker still out of the lineup, because every day is some variation on, “Well, what can you really do?” We’ve seen this script a few times before in the last week and a half; Francisco Liriano pitched pretty well, but the offense was anemic against Max Scherzer and the bullpen and defense did no one any favors, and so the Pirates lost a game that might have, under other circumstances, been winnable.
And so the Pirates (and thus we, as Pirate fans) stand at the same place we stood on Monday evening: the Pirates are still .500 without McCutchen, they’ll start tomorrow at the very worst tied for the second wild card, and they’re still in the thick of the NL Central race, just two games behind the Brewers. They seem to obviously be leaving games on the table, but they’re finding a way to win at least some games with their stars out, and that’s good. I’ll say again that I don’t honestly know how long they can keep this up; at some point they’ll either drop a few games in a row or the wrong team will rip off a few wins. For now, though, treading water is perfectly acceptable, even if it results in some frustrating games like today’s.
Anyway, Liriano cruised through four innings looking absolutely invincible today, but sort of hit a wall in the fifth and sixth that lead to a 2-0 Tigers lead. It’s obvious that he’s looked better since his return from the disabled list, but this is the second time in three starts that he’s sort of hit a wall like this after really cruising early on. It seems like the line between Good Liriano and Bad Liriano is pretty thin right now. The Pirates managed a couple of early doubles off of Max Scherzer, but were otherwise dominated by him; he scattered three hits in eight shutout innings, striking out 14 Pirates along the way. The Tigers piled three insurance runs on in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to an uneven outing by Brandon Cumpton and a throwing error by Michael Martinez. That was good for the Tigers and bad for the Pirates because Gaby Sanchez hit a two-run homer off of Phil Coke in the ninth, but that was all the Pirates would get.
So it goes, I guess. Hopefully the Pirates are almost out of the woods here, since Neil Walker almost pinch-hit today and McCutchen seems to be making good progress and can be activated after this weekend’s series in DC.