Crunch-time is coming very early this year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Seeing the Pirates struggle in 2014 shouldn’t be that surprising. The team clearly performed over their collective heads last season, but did anyone see the Bucs struggling to this extent this year? I know I didn’t.
It’s not often that a series in late-May can mean as much as this upcoming road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers will mean to the Pirates. Consider where the Pirates are in the standings right now. They sit in fourth place in the National League Central division and are eight games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers, despite actually playing pretty well over their last 10 games.
The Pirates are currently six games below .500, and if they get swept by the Dodgers, they will be 10 games below and will have an almost impossible hill to climb if they hope to make the postseason for a second straight year. More importantly, with a sweep, they will almost surely fall farther behind the Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.
It’s not a good attitude to have, you know, hoping to get one or two wins out of a four game series. However, the Pirates are a terrible road team and they play even worse at Dodger Stadium. The Pirates own the worst road record in baseball, at 7-16, so expecting a sweep or even three out of four is silly if you are a fan of the Pirates. In their last nine games at Chavez Ravine, the Pirates are 0-9 and have hit .167 as a team. In this case, you just have to hope for the best and, unfortunately, expect the worst.
For those of you that are still rolling with the “it’s still early” narrative, I have news for you: It’s not early. It hasn’t been early for quite some time. It’s May 29, folks.
The people that use that narrative often cite the 2013 Dodgers team as an example of why worrying about records and standings before June is unnecessary. In fact, through their first 52 games, the 2014 Pirates have a better record (23-29) than the 2013 Dodgers (22-30) did.
If you look at the rosters, however, you’ll see why the Dodgers were able to go on a ridiculous 45-23 tear in the second half of 2013. The Dodgers had Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and several other All-Star caliber players on their team. The Pirates don’t have nearly as much talent as the Dodgers.
Sure, you can always hope that when the Pirates call up their top prospect, Gregory Polanco, in about 10 days, he will have the same impact on the Pirates that Puig had on the Dodgers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem all that likely. What Puig did last year with the Dodgers, the spark he provided, was almost miraculous. Banking on Polanco doing the same thing is foolish and unrealistic. He is going to be a very good player, but come on, he’s a rookie.
I’m not saying the Pirates need to sweep the Dodgers, although it would be great to see. They do, however, have to have a pulse during the series and pick up at least one win, preferably two. It’s getting late for the Pirates, and the fans in Pittsburgh don’t want to go through another meaningless summer of baseball. Almost all of the momentum and fanfare from the 2013 season is gone in Pittsburgh and the Pirates have to find a way to earn that back.