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Many will make Jerry Meals the culprit. Some will blame a false sense of accomplishment. Others will just accept the Pirates as the Pirates.
Ten days ago, the Pirates were in the playoff discussion. All the talk was about their climb out of obscurity, a journey to the pennant and the battle to stay over .500.
Now, after losing 11 of 13 since Jerry Meals’ missed call at home – which is quickly gaining infamy – the Pirates are out of the race and struggling to keep their heads above water.
Sitting nine and a half games back from first, in a division they led only a couple weeks ago, the Pirates got their first win in 10 tries last night over the ailing San Francisco Giants (who have lost nine of 11). But, the difference between the Giants and the Bucs is that the Giants lead their division and remain 10 wins over .500.
The Pirates incredible slide began after what was supposed to be the tough portion of their schedule, with series against the Phillies and Braves. Even after being swept by the Phillies, the Pirates had survived and many thought would rebound with a home stand against two of the National League’s worst teams.
But now, all they have to show for their efforts is three straight series sweeps, two at home, to the Phillies, Cubs and Padres. Their 10-game skid was the longest of the season. In fact, it was the longest since June of last season.
Even worse, the back to back sweeps they suffered at home set a new franchise low. In 125 years, the Pirates had never gone winless in a home stand that lasted longer than six games.
The frightening numbers don’t stop there, either.
In their 10-game skid, the Pirates were outscored by 45 runs. This weekend’s opponents, the Padres, scored 35 runs in three games. That is one run shy of their franchise record for a three-game series.
It should also be noted that San Diego is currently last in the NL West, at 51-65.
So soon after talking pennants, playoffs and All-Stars, players like Brandon Wood are already talking about next season.
“For the city of Pittsburgh, regardless of what happens this year, they’ve got a quality group of guys that are going to be special for a long time,” Wood said to Pirates.com.
“Regardless of what happens this year.” Is that what we’re left with now?
As if things didn’t go from good to bad quick enough, the Pirates biggest fall off in recent memory has them headed straight for an NL Central crash course that includes 16-straight games against NL Central opponents after this series with the Giants.
Of those 16 games, seven are against the division leading Brewers and six are against the second place Cardinals. The Brewers and Cardinals series are also sandwiched by a matchup with the Cincinnati Reds, who sit a half game behind the Bucs in the division.
For the Bucs to find themselves back in the race, they’d need to dominate the remainder of their schedule and hope for a slide from the Brewers and Cardinals.
Unfortunately, the chance of the Pirates covering all that ground before the end of September is slim to none. In fact, most feel pretty comfortable with the idea that this slide has put an end to their season.
For now, we can find solace in a single win over the defending World Series Champions and cross our fingers of an unlikely run back to playoff contention.