The Pirates stand at 9-9 this morning, tied for third in the NL Central, four games behind the first place Cubs. There has been a lot to like about the '16 Pirates (high OBP, scoring runs, John Jaso) and some things about which to be concerned (uneven, at best, starting pitching, below average bullpen, Cutch hitting below .250), but it is still VERY early and we probably shouldn't be overly concerned at this point. So why am I saying that this afternoon's game with the Diamondbacks might be considered, if not critical, then at least a possible red flag game?
It is an old axiom in baseball that teams need to "win at home and break even on the road." That axiom came to mind last Sunday when the Bucs were about to embark on a ten game western road trip to San Diego, Phoenix, and Denver. With seven of those games coming against two teams that figure to be NL bottom feeders, it was hoped that 5-5 would be the absolute lower limit of this trip, that 6-4 was well within reach, and even 7-3 might be obtainable. Halfway throughout he trip they are 2-3. A win today would certainly put a 5-5 trip well within reach, but a loss would mean that the Bucs would need to take three of four from the Rockies at Coors Field. Certainly doable, but with the way the pitching has been going would you bet on it?
At this point, it looks like a 5-5 road trip is the best that the Pirates can hope for. Within that old axiom to be sure, but will it be a ten game stretch that we will look back upon come September and say "if only....."?
Something to really love on this trip was the performance of Gerrit Cole against the Padres on Thursday. After the team lost two straight to the crummy Padres, Cole did what an ace pitcher is supposed to do: He put the hammer down and shut down San Diego for six shutout innings and stopped the losing streak. An eight run seventh inning for the Pirates turned the game into an 11-1 laffer, but make no mistake, that game was all about Gerrit Cole.
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for taking the the first series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games over the New York Rangers. I had gone on record at the start of the Playoffs that the Pens would win the Stanley Cup by sweeping all four series. Well, that obviously isn't going to happen now, so I suppose we will all just have to settle for a 16-1 record when they hoist the Cup a couple of weeks from now.
Yes, I know that I am a Bandwagon Jumper.
The Facebook news feed and he talking heads on ESPN have been all abuzz in the last week or so over someone named Conor McGregor. Until this week, I had never heard of Conor McGregor, but I have come to learn that he is a big star in Ultimate Fighting, a "sport" that my friend Tim Baker calls human cockfighting.
I know that I'm old, but for the life of me, I cannot understand the appeal of UFC and MMA. You can all get off my lawn now, assured of the knowledge that it is likely that the name of Conor McGregor will probably never appear in The Grandstander again.