The Pittsburgh Pirates entered their game on Tuesday night with a six-game losing streak and many fans believing that the team’s season is over. Anyone looking to change that opinion was surely disappointed as the Pirates were whipped by the Atlanta Braves for a second straight night, dropping their losing skid to seven games.
But even though the Pirates have been playing awful baseball over the past week, their playoff hopes are far from dead.
Despite being on this long losing streak, the Pirates are still only 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot and seven games back in the NL Central. That number in the Central looks to be insurmountable this late in the season, but the Pirates play NL Central opponents in their next three series and most of September.
So if they can win most of those games and get a little help, they could end up right back in that race. The 2.5 games in the wild card are easy to make up with over a month of baseball remaining.
The Pirates’ biggest issue during this weeklong losing streak has been the team’s pitching. Their starting pitchers are not throwing quality innings, and the offense can’t come back from 5-6 run deficits every night. But that looks like it could be getting better with staff ace Gerrit Cole coming off of the DL on Wednesday.
The team could still use a starting pitching upgrade before the end of the season if they want to ensure a turnaround, such as Bartolo Colon or A.J. Burnett, who have both passed through waivers, but the Pirates’ current staff should rebound and help them at least remain in contention.
The Pirates have also received great offensive boosts over the past few days with Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer avoiding the DL, and Andrew McCutchen returning from his rib fracture. All of this means that the reinforcements are arriving in Pittsburgh, and they can only help the Pirates in their playoff push.
One final thing to think about when looking at the Pirates’ playoff hopes is the instability of baseball. Despite how poorly the Pirates have played, they are still in the hunt. So what could happen when they catch fire again? Teams have already made more remarkable turnarounds this season. One month ago, the Kansas City Royals were two games under .500, and now they are 15 games over .500 with the lead in the AL Central.
The same Braves that whipped the Pirates on Monday and Tuesday lost eight games in a row over the last two weeks, but now they are 0.5 games back of a Wild Card spot after winning five in a row. Baseball is an unpredictable game, and the Pirates could own a Wild Card spot a week from now if they turn it around.
It would be easy to write the Pirates off right now because of this losing streak, but as we’ve already seen, that would be premature.