Pirates seal fate with 8-7 loss
There was a good chance the Pirates were going to lose tonight’s contest. For the first time since joining the Bucs at the trade deadline, Drew Hutchison would take the mound. Hutchison, who brought a 4.97 ERA with him to Pittsburgh from Toronto, struggled in his first National League start by allowing four runs in just 4.0 innings of work. He was relieved in the 5th by Trevor Williams, who ended up “earning” the loss, gave up three earned runs on four hits in his lone inning on the bump. The remainder of the bullpen duties were carried out by Jeff Locke, who recorded scoreless 6th and 7th innings, then Juan Nicasio who allowed a Joey Votto game-winning homer in the 9th.
Even with a pretty solid night of offense, where the Bucco bats brought home seven runs on ten hits and seven walks, it was not enough. Despite production, the left-on-base crisis continued as the Pirates stranded ten baserunners, a number that is simply too high against a lowly team like the Reds.
After their 7th loss in September, and their 8th of ten, the Pirates are almost certainly out of playoff contention. The St. Louis Cardinals, who currently occupy the NL’s 2nd Wild Card spot, won again tonight and thus improved their lead over the Pirates to 5.5 games. There are only 22 games left, and thus I would be shocked if the Pirates were somehow able to roll through those remaining contests with a record good enough to propel them into their fourth consecutive Wild Card game.
No matter how you slice it, the Pirates’ standings deficit is borderline insurmountable. If there was even a little bit of confidence left with this team, it would be crazy to completely write-off the playoffs with 22 games to play. Unfortunately, this team’s horrific September so far isn’t inspiring much confidence. At this point, many fans are simply worried about the Bucs finishing with a win total of 81 or more.
The Pirates are in 5th place in the Wild Card standings with just over three weeks to play. A few days ago, it was definitely possible for the Pirates to hang around, if not take one of those spots. Now, it seems like a distant dream, and time is running out. I feel comfortable locking in a non-playoff October right now, but if this team wins six or more in their upcoming pair of four game series, I might come swimming back.