“Oh, that’s not fair!”
That is what a friend of mine who is a Chicago Cubs fan said Monday when he found out the Pittsburgh Pirates were about to start a series in Milwaukee.
Little did he realize he should have rejoiced at that news.
Despite losing 7-5 to the Brewers on Tuesday, the Pirates still own a 4.5 game lead over the Cubs for the top Wild Card. But considering that Miller Park is a house of horrors for the Pirates, it would not be a surprise if the Cubs inch a game or two closer come Thursday night.
What is it about Miller Park that gives the Brewers such dominance over the Pirates? Is it the giant yellow slide in left center field? Seeing their mascot, Bernie Brewer, and his exquisite big, yellow mustache go down the slide when the Brewers hit a home run? Or maybe racing sausages? Randall Simon sure didn’t seem to like them.
So just how bad have the Pirates been at Miller Park?
Since Miller Park opened in 2001, the Pirates have gone 41-83 in Milwaukee, good for a .331 winning percentage and by far the worst for any team that has made regular trips to Miller Park. The next team the Brewers have the most success against at home is the Houston Astros, with a 59-42 record against their old National League Central foe.
But here is the most bizarre part of this: The Pirates actually used to do well in Miller Park.
Yes, you read that correctly.
From 2001-2005, the Pirates went 24-22 in Milwaukee, and were an even 24-24 after 2006 – both higher winning percentages than the Pirates’ record in PNC Park during those stretches. The Pirates swept the Brewers three times in Miller Park, including going 9-1 there in 2002.
But then the calendar flipped to 2008.
From 2008-2010, the Pirates played 24 games in Miller Park – they won two of them, and their 4-14 record between 2011 and 2012 wasn’t much better. From 2008-2012 the Pirates won one series in Milwaukee, but they were swept 10 times.
And the Pirates’ inept play from 2001-2012 can’t be completely blamed for their poor record at Miller Park. Since 2013, the Pirates have a losing record of 10-15 at Miller Park, including a 2-5 mark there this season.
The Pirates are in the best position they have been in decades, while the Brewers are at perhaps their lowest point in quite a few years. Yet it doesn’t seem to matter when the two take the field at Miller Park.
It seems like things turn upside down when the Pirates step foot in Miller Park. Struggling Brewer starters throw gems. Hot Pirate bats go silent, while slumping Brewer hitters wake up.
All-Star Gerrit Cole took the rubber Monday against a Brewer offense that traded away Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra since the two last met; the Brewers still tagged Cole for a career-high five runs on eight hits over a season-low four innings pitched.
Brewers’ starter Jimmy Nelson, who gave up five runs on 3.1 innings with eight walks in his last start, went seven strong innings, striking out six and allowing only one run and four hits. He didn’t even walk a batter.
It would be easier to swallow these poor results in Milwaukee if the Pirates were winning against other divisional teams. But they aren’t. The loss Monday drops them to 21-30 against NL Central teams this season – and 7-19 on the road.
Are their struggles in Miller Park an isolated, almost unexplainable case? Or does this speak to the Pirates’ inability to beat NL Central teams on the road?
With 25 games left against divisional foes,11 on the road, the Pirates need to solve these woes –and fast – if they want to even think about catching the St. Louis Cardinals and win the NL Central, or even just to hold the Cubs back.
Finishing their current series in Milwaukee on a good note would be a good start.
Photo credit: @Brewers