Pirates must make move nowBy Matt Verderame
The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t have any more time to waste. At 53-53 and languishing in third place of the tough National League Central, the time has come for Pittsburgh to either make a move or sink in the standings, not to be heard from again until spring training.
The Pirates came into the season full of life and hope, yet things have gone horribly wring. Pittsburgh has absolutely no chance of winning the division, sitting a robust 12.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs. However, the NL wild card is still in play. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a firm grip on the first seed with a 60-48 mark, but the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins are tied for the second and final seed at 57-51.
Incredibly, the Pirates are only three games off that pace and with the experience of getting into the Wild Card game each of the past two seasons, there has to be belief within the clubhouse.
Manager Clint Hurdle is one of the best in the business, and he needs to challenge this group. Pittsburgh has all kinds of talent both in the field and on the mound, but it hasn’t been brought to light. Andrew McCutchen is a former Most Valuable Player, and yet he is enduring a miserable campaign. McCutchen is hitting a measly .241 with 15 home runs, acting more the part of a middling extra part than a leading man.
On the bump, the only pitcher worth anything has been Gerrit Cole. Beyond him, it has been one disappointing start after the next, with the hopes that Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte can hit enough to overcome. Francisco Liriano has been a total disaster, making 21 starts with only seven of them counting as quality ones. With his 6-11 record and 5.46 ERA, it is a wonder that he hasn’t been replaced already by a kid in the minors. Jeff Locke has been even worse in his starts, allowing a 5.63 ERA with a 1.51 WHIP.
If the Pirates are going to climb this mountain ahead, it is going to start with Locke and Liriano. Simply put, no contending team can trot that nonsense onto the field 40 percent of the time and think it has a reasonable chance to win. At some point, that duo needs to step up and become what Hurdle expected in the beginning of the season – two guys who could anchor behind Cole.
Should Pittsburgh not make the playoffs, it would be a huge failure. The Pirates are supremely talented, but simply falling short of all reasonable expectations. There is still time to make a push and perhaps even host the Wild Card game, but the sun is beginning to set on dreams of a third consecutive postseason appearance.