TFloydâ€™s Dylan reverie yesterday was so good that Iâ€™m tempted to give up on recapping altogether. (Go for it! I hear many say.) But I will soldier on, much like the Pittsburgh Pirates have for the last 30 years. We can bemoan the tightfisted Liberty owners, regret the team construction that privileges Nate Jones over Mark Melancon, wonder all we like about the status of Mike Sorokaâ€™s ankle, but wake up, people. Since Sid slid (in Retrosheet-speak S7/L7S.3-H(UR);2-H(UD);1-2) on October 14, 1992 until today:
- The Pirates have a record of 1994-2411, which averages to 73 wins a year over a 162 game season.
- They have never finished in first place.
- They have made the real playoffs once (losing in the NLDS) and lost two of three wild card games.
- Those three semi-competent years (2013-15) are the only years they finished above .500 since Sid Bream managed to beat Bondâ€™s not-very-strong throw to the plate.
- This year, at least thus far, is no different. They arrive in Atlanta 17-25.
It could be worse, folks. A lot worse.
I had a fascinating set of Retrosheet interrogations I intended to put here, but it didnâ€™t come out all that interesting, so itâ€™s shelved until it gets interesting. On to the gameâ€¦
So the Pirates are a AAAA team, but the Mets put a AAAA team on the field in the last three games and we did little against them. So I come to this game (and this series) with a lack of confidence. Is anybody confident other than Chief? And his confidence is not exactly what I’m looking for.
I had Smylyâ€™s 5th start two weeks ago and produced, after the game, this chart of his productivity:
Heâ€™s now got two more starts and he now looks a lot more like the guy we signed:
For the naysayers, though, the progress has definitely slowed. If he keeps this up he still won’t be Johnny Vander Meer by the end of the season. He gave up a two-run two-out homer in the first, and another solo shot in the 6th; a somewhat worrisome 11 dingers on the season. On the other hand, if he can give you six OK innings every time out, he’s useful.
On the other side of the ledger, the offense was all homers as well: a three-run shot by William Contreras in the 2nd and a solo shot by the newly-invigorated (perhaps running scared) Dansby Swanson who also had a hustling double. All of his critics, coop naturally excluded, are now partly silenced. You can’t silence coop.
But he’d thrown 109 pitches by the time the 7th inning rolled around, and we therefore needed to get 9 outs out of the bullpen with a one run lead. Everybody who thought that was likely: raise your hands. Seeing no hands, the lead lasted four batters. Sean Newcombe gave up a run, relieved by Edgar Santana. Matzek pitched an uneventful 8th. Blythe Danner’s ex-son-in-law handled the 9th.
Meanwhile, Chip said “He just missed it” to 436 consecutive Braves’ hitters, only one of whom reached base after Dansby’s homer, a bloop single from Freddie.
Extra innings saw Jacob Webb return to the mound; I confess I’m not sure why. I’m sure there was deep psychological reasoning and pseudo-family dynamical reasons, but nothing that makes strategic sense if you want to win a baseball game. Three straight singles and a sac fly Grybo’d off Dayton led to yet another two-run extra inning. The bottom of the inning saw futile efforts from Freeman, Ozuna and Albies and it was over.
So once again, the manifest failings of the bullpen come to the fore: two squandered leads after the starter left. Ozuna and Albies are clearly struggling now… again. And the bullpen cannot hold a lead. Where’s Sid Bream when you need him? If you can’t get well against the Pirates, you can’t get well. Three more, though. Tomorrow is another day.