ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- On August 8, the Pirates sat 16 games over .500 (63-47) and had a sizable lead in the wild card race (3.5 games in front of the Cards).
That was just 8 days ago. The road to the postseason was going to be very challenging for the Cardinals. This was supposed to be the Pirates year. They had learned from their poor second half in 2011 and were primed to show the baseball world they were ready to take that next step.
Then...the last week happened. While the Redbirds went 4-2 during this recent stretch to get to 11 games over .500 the Pirates have completely gone in the other direction.
How about 6 losses in 7 games? And now they’re tied with the Cards for that 2nd and final wild card berth.
The worst part of it all for the Pirates is that their strength (pitching) has seemingly left them. In those 6 losses Pittsburgh gave up an average of 7 and a half runs.
This is a pitching staff that’s in the top 10 in MLB in ERA (3.75) and opponents batting average (.245). The pitching wasn’t supposed to be the problem. Hitting was. Pittsburgh’s 20th in all of baseball with 485 runs scored for the season and 28th in on-base percentage (.302).
The fact that the Pirates pitching is leaking is problematic at best...disastrous at worst.
Trade deadline acquisition Wandy Rodriguez has not been the addition they were hoping for. In 4 starts since coming over from Houston, Rodriguez has managed just a 5.47 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). And only 2 of those outings were quality starts.
James McDonald also hasn’t been what he was at the beginning of the season either. The 27-year old had a ridiculous 2.19 ERA after beating the Twins on June 21st. Since then? In 9 starts he’s got a 6.57 ERA, an .868 opponents OPS and has surrendered 11 home runs. In his first 14 starts of the season—or before these struggles began—McDonald gave up just 4 homers.
So what was carrying this Pirates club for so long has drastically fallen off. And the Cardinals are taking advantage.
On paper, most executives and scouts would admit the Cards are a better team than the Pirates. I mean, c’mon. Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, etc? It’s not taking a cheap shot to suggest Pittsburgh doesn’t have the star power this team in St. Louis has. It’s just fact. Andrew McCutchen is one of the best players in baseball but beyond that they can’t compete with the names here.
Now, names on paper don’t win games. And for the majority of this season the Pirates have been the better team. But not lately. And it raises the question of whether the Pirates are falling off in a similar fashion to last year.