In the last few months, I’ve dug pretty deep into Mike Duncan’s great history podcasts. His The History of Rome is more or less essential listening if you’re interested in that particular type of history. Since Rome concluded, he’s started on Revolutions, which is a tour of, well, revolutions, through the Western world; how the English Civil Wars set the stage for the American Revolution, how the American Revolution set the stage for the French Revolution, etc. In the podcasts devoted to the American Revolution, there is this particular theme that weaves through the early battles of the war: the British won many of the early battles. They captured New York City, then they captured the capital of Philadelphia. Despite all of this, the American’s refused to surrender. To paraphrase Spence, the British response was, “We’ve won the battles, we’ve captured your capital, you give up now because this is how war works.” The revolutionary colonists refused to do so, though, either due to an unerring believe in freedom from tyranny or just a really good understanding of how far the British Isles are from America and how hard it would be for the British to fight a sustained war in North America.
I’m using that story as a lead-in here, because it seems like a nice metaphor for the Pirates’ season to this point. The Pirates bottomed out at eight games under .500 as late as May 20th and they still found themselves nine games back in the NL Central after going over the .500 mark — sitting that far behind the Brewers on June 28th despite a 41-40 record. They won six of their next seven after that, though, and closed the deficit to 4 1/2 games coming into a week’s worth of games against the Cardinals and Reds. Then they fell apart again, losing five of those seven games, making up a game on the Brewers but losing ground to the Cardinals and Reds, and going into the break at 49-46, 3 1/2 behind the Brewers.
Here we are a week later, and the Pirates now have three comeback wins against the Rockies to their name. They’re now just 1 1/2 back of the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL Central, which is the closest they’ve been in the division since their 6-3 start to the season. Despite all of the division losses and all of the bullpen meltdowns against their three main divisional rivals and their numbers against teams with a winning record, there the Pirates are, right on the heels of the pre-season favorites and the team that sprinted out way ahead of everyone else. I don’t want to attribute it to tenacity or perseverance any more than I want to attribute it to dumb luck, but the reality is what it is: the Pirates are 1 1/2 games out of first place with 64 games on the schedule.
Sunday’s game was a nice microcosm for that; Jeff Locke didn’t get out of the gate very well and served up homers to Josh Rutledge and our old friend Mike McKenry to put the Pirates behind 3-0. Falling behind 3-0 in the second inning to the Rockies with Tyler Matzek on the mound is one of those situations where you say to yourself, “Well, if the Pirates don’t give up any more runs, they should be able to overcome this.” Locke bore down, Chris Stewart hit two ground rule doubles (!), and the Pirates did just that. Obviously the numbers say that this is the best Pirate offense in quite some time. It’s nice to see that play out on the field, too.