In fact, the last time these two teams met was over three years ago back in 2010, when the A’s swept the visiting Pirates in their three-game series, outscoring them 22-6. That pretty much equates to a “F” on any grading scale. Pirate fans can only hope to see a better grade from their team this time around, but if the first week of July is any indication, the Pirates might be headed for a little summer school.
After going 2-4 against two sub .500 teams last week, the Bucs will need to pick it up this three-game series against the visiting A’s or risk falling out of first place in the NL Central. The Athletics come into town at 52-37 and will send Bartolo Colon to the mound against the Pirates’ Jeff Locke in a battle of All-Star pitchers.
Hopefully PNC Park will provide some much-needed tail winds for the sails of a Pirate ship that has been pretty much flaccid over the past week. Losing two of three to both the sub .500 Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, some home cooking might be just want the doctor ordered before the Pirates head into the four-day All-Star break.
Another sub .500 team, the New York Mets, follows Oakland into town, and the Pirates need to make some hay against a Mets’ club that’s next to last in NL team batting, slugging and on-base percentage. But before that, they’ll have to take on the first-place AL West A’s, a more than formidable opponent.
The spark has been missing in the first week of July for the Pirates, as the timely hitting and lockdown pitching just hasn’t quite been there. In truth, the pitching’s still been acceptable, but the with the Pirates’ mediocre offense to date, it just hasn’t been enough to carry them.
The MO for the Bucs this season has been 3-2 and 4-3-type victories, not 7-6 and 6-5 ones. Still, with All-Stars’ Andrew McCutchen yet to get hot and Pedro Alvarez now coming into his own, the team is capable of scoring runs more than they have been and hopes to yet regain some of the batting prowess that put them fourth in NL homers last season.
Anything less than a 4-2 homestand this week will not get a passing grade though, as previous concerns about second-half meltdowns no doubt will arise.
Maybe that’s just because the Pirates have been playing such good baseball so far this year. Or maybe it’s because it’s hard to erase the memory of 20-consecutive losing seasons. Either way, a winning homestand will put the team back on track and raise their record to equal their season-high of 21 games over .500.