Heading into Tuesday night’s games, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a magic number of two and were able to secure their fate for the 2016 season.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, that magic number was what it took for them to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
First the Pirates fell 6-4 to the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants defeated the Colorado Rockies, 12-3.
This sequence ends a streak of three consecutive seasons with playoff berths.
Now the Pirates fall to 77-80 on the season and a fourth consecutive .500 or above season is in serious jeopardy. Injuries have derailed the season, and a 9-19 June against several contending teams as well as what is now a 10-16 September could have been the undoings.
By season’s end, the Pirates were playing better, more inspired baseball away from PNC Park, which is certainly different from the norm.
It will be interesting to see how the Pirates handle the rest of their season now with there being absolutely no mathematical chance of a playoff berth.
Starling Marte made a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday, but given his back issues, it may be wise to let him rest for the remaining five games and be healthy as the offseason approaches. The same could be said for Gregory Polanco, who has endured what seems to be a myriad of injuries and also struggled to adjust to second-half pitching.
If there is one to definitely start for four if not all five games it would be Andrew McCutchen. He has come on of late seeing his 13-game hitting streak snap Monday. He has clearly found something and giving him momentum in the offseason is critical.
Starting pitching is such a mess right now, a price paid for not getting that done in the offseason. Injuries and poor performance have led to a crowded clubhouse of pitchers, particularly younger pitchers gaining experience.
This season was lost when Gerrit Cole got injured in Spring Training and never fully could get that timing back and hitters laid off Francisco Liriano’s purpose pitches, of which there were many.
Vogelsong’s start reminded me of a year ago when the Pirates ended any chance of a division title when they started Charlie Morton, who had been absolutely terrible
It is no secret that Vogelsong has been off of late and is now winless in his last six starts and struggling to find consistency in location.
The results were not nearly as dramatic as Morton last season but the same hopeless feeling felt as though it was there.
Francisco Cervelli’s injury was a killer to the catcher position as was the first-half bullpen struggles.
Defending PNC Park down the stretch on the surface would be a saving grace, but instead the Pirates are 4-17 at home dating back to Aug. 19 while currently holding a 37-42 mark this season.
Despite all of these pitfalls, the Pirates were still in the Wild Card hunt never officially eliminated until Tuesday though it feels as though the removal from playoff contention occurred for quite some time.
The Giants in fact are now 10 games under .500 in the second half dropping their first six games and started 2-11 after the All-Star Break.
This season was a tough ask for manager Clint Hurdle to begin with, but his loyalty in players saw more mixed results than ever before.
What is the legacy of this Pirates team? That remains to be seen. The hope is for this to be a bridge year for some of this young talent to make differences. This team will need a lot of help, especially in the starting pitching department.
General manager Neal Huntington discussed the need for eight men to be ready to take those five starting spotsk and there will be a lot of question marks that need filled in.
Look on the bright side,Pirates fans, Jake Arrieta is pitching Wednesday night.