By John Franco
It’s been a roller-coaster week for the Pirates. After losing two of three games to the lowly Brewers over the weekend, their season was teetering on the brink of destruction. After their heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Cardinals on Monday, their playoff chances were dead, and even their ability to finish .500 was in question. After their 9-0 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday, their season is saved and the Cardinals are a non-factor in the playoff race.
Josh Harrison obliterating Yadier Molina on a collision at the plate shows that the Pirates still have some fight left in them. James McDonald allowing two hits in seven shutout innings means that he’s regained the Cy Young form he flashed in the first half. Pedro Alvarez hitting two monster home runs means that he’s ready to go on a tear and carry the Pirates to the playoffs. Clint Hurdle arguing that both benches should have been warned last night after Jake Westbrook plunked Harrison… never mind, even I can’t figure out the spin on that one.
Some of these things are undoubtedly true, but they’ve been blown out of proportion by the need to fit everything into a neat little box. Heading into Wednesday’s series finale with the Cardinals, the Pirates have a record of 69-60 with 33 games left. They need to win 12 of their remaining games to finish .500, and 13 to finish with a winning record. They probably need to win between 17 and 21 of those games to make the playoffs.
During those 33 games, lots of things will happen. Pedro will probably hit some monster home runs. J-Hay will show his relentless energy. Andrew McCutchen will get some hits, and maybe come out of his slump. Pirate fans will experience dizzying highs after every win, and soul-crushing lows after every loss. Then the season will end. Maybe it will end after 162 games, and maybe it won’t. Some of these things will matter in the grand scheme of things, but most of them won’t. Some of them will have an impact on the next day’s game, and some of them won’t. All of them are pretty much inevitable, unless the Mayans were right about the year but wrong about the date.
Just remember this: the Pirates are in the playoff race. Let’s say that again: the Pirates are in the playoff race. I was at the game last night, and it was fun. The Pirates were playing meaningful baseball in late August, and the fans appreciated it.
I’m going to do my best to spend the next 33 games enjoying the ride, and not trying to figure out what it all means. I suspect the games will be stressful enough without the need to understand their place in the great cosmic puzzle. Let’s let the players play, and remember that we have all winter to worry about it all means.