In the past week or so, looking at the standings has given me some mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m happy to see the Pirates above .500, in the wild card mix, and still on the periphery of the NL Central race. They were so bad in April and parts of May that being 44-40 on July 3 — two games back in the wild card and six back in the Central — really is an accomplishment. There’s plenty of baseball left. On the other hand, I know that the Pirates have the best record in the NL since the beginning of May, and I see that they’re still six games back in the Central and in fourth place in the wild card race. I think that this is a pretty good Pirate team, but I’m not sure that they’re the best team in the NL and they’ve needed to be the best team in the NL for a while just to be barely hanging on as we enter Fourth of July weekend.
When I think about things that way, I get frustrated with all of the games the bullpen gave away and with all of the sweeps of bad teams that the Pirates should/could have had to this point. Basically, the Pirates have been excellent now for two months or so, but they’re still digging out of the hole that they dug for themselves in the early part of this season. Just because they’re on a tear now doesn’t mean that they get to slow down anytime soon if they want to be a real part of the NL playoff race in 2014.
The larger point is just this: the Pirates should sweep the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks are in a terrible place right now. They’re a rudderless and directionless ship and there’s no help coming. This is the sort of series where a good team picks up three games on .500 instead of just one, and the Pirates have been unable to do this sort of thing this year.
Clint Hurdle is gunning for the sweep today; he’s got the exact same lineup on the mound tonight as he did last night. Brandon McCarthy goes for the Diamondbacks. He’s better than his 2-10 record and his 5.11 ERA (his K/BB numbers are quite good and his HR/FB is way out of whack), and he’s actually been connected to the Pirates in some recent trade whisperings. I’m guessing that McCarthy is more of an off-season project, than a mid-season acquisition, though he definitely does have Future Pittsburgh Pirate written all over him at this point. That’s neither here nor there. Vance Worley pitches for the Bucs and while he’s sort of the opposite of McCarthy at this point (1.74 ERA/3.78 FIP/4.14 xFIP), these facts remain: The Pirates’ lineup is good and the Diamondbacks’ lineup is bad. The Pirates’ bullpen is good and the Diamondbacks’ bullpen is bad. It’s time for the season’s first sweep. No excuses.
First pitch tonight is at 7:05.