I’m going to talk about the trade deadline at greater length later tonight (probably much greater length), but for now let’s focus on the game the Pirates have coming up in three hours against the Cubs. That is, after all, what the trade deadline is about, right?
The good news is that my guess that Travis Snider wouldn’t make it to Chicago in time for tonight’s game was wrong; he’s there, and he’s starting in right field, batting second. That means we’ll get our first look at the Marte/McCutchen/Snider outfield tonight and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty excited by that prospect. I guess that I can’t say for certain right now that this outfield will be much better than the Presley/McCutchen/Tabata trio that the Pirates started 2012 with, but I’ll certainly take my chances with this group.
Part of the reason that I’m happy Snider’s in the lineup so quickly is that it’s pretty obvious that the Pirates need some kind of shot in the arm right now, on a metaphorical level. They got destroyed by the Cubs and Astros on Sunday and Monday and they’re not playing all that well at the moment. This is not a big problem yet; the Pirates still have a three-game lead on a playoff spot and they’re within striking distance of the Reds. Sometimes teams play badly; this is just reality over 162 games. They will need to pull out of this slump in something resembling timely fashion, though. If they can’t do it by the weekend, they may find themselves out of striking distance of the Reds. If they can’t do it by this time next week, they may find themselves looking up at someone in the wild card race. If it takes longer than that, they’re going to have some serious work ahead of them to earn a playoff spot. Slumps are fine, even when they’re against bad teams. Long slumps are not.
So Snider’s in the lineup and AJ Burnett’s on the mound and the Cubs had to scratch Ryan Dempster late when they traded him to the Rangers, so they’ll send Casey Coleman to the mound instead. Coleman’s having a rough year and a generally rough career with the Cubs. Tonight is as good a night as any to break out of a slump and start something good. First pitch tonight is at 8:05.