Welcome to Pittsburgh Pirates Highs and Lows. Every Monday, I am going to look back on the week that was for the Pirates and give you my best and worst moment
There is a famous quote that says “baseball is designed to break your heart.” I think that is completely true. However, even during the best years, once a week, this sport makes me say “baseball is dumb.” The Pittsburgh Pirates had one of those weeks that make you question why you spend so much time watching this silly sport.
The Pirates are in a funk right now and I don’t think anyone can really deny it. This doesn’t mean all hope is lost as the team still has talent and they will undoubtedly go on a run and put together some wins soon. That doesn’t make it any easier to watch this team right now.
I am an eternal optimist, so I choose to look for beauty in the muck that is a mediocre week of baseball. Even the worst weeks have moments worthy of celebration.
It can be difficult to find the positive in a 2-4 stretch of baseball, however, this week was actually fairly easy. The Pittsburgh Pirates had a couple wins and one of them was really cool and long overdue. Joe Musgrove made his long-awaited Pirates’ debut and did not disappoint.
The 2017 World Series Champion owned the mound from start to finish as he completely shut down the St. Louis Cardinals. When all was said and done, Musgrove went seven innings, allowed zero runs on five hits and struck out seven.
Musgrove was one of the key pieces of the Gerrit Cole trade and his success is vital for the Pirates in 2018. If this start was a sign of things to come, that is only good news for this club. Musgrove really mixed his pitches well and never let the Cardinals get comfortable at the plate. Musgrove has fairly decent stuff and he certainly seems to know how to use it. He won’t throw seven shutout innings every start but if his control remains this consistent, he will find continued success.
This start had to feel good for Musgrove, especially with how long his rehab process took. It took until nearly June for Musgrove to finally step onto the mound at PNC Park and he truly was worth the wait. One start doesn’t decide anything, obviously. Musgrove will have to prove he can consistently get outs at the Big League level. His first Pirates start could not have gone better. Let’s hope it is a sign of things to come because right now, this rotation needs a lot of stabilizing.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that often I say to myself that baseball is dumb. Sunday’s game against the Cardinals is all the proof I need about the stupidity of this game. The Pirates had everything going for them entering the seventh inning. They had a 4-1 lead and the back-end of their bullpen looked poised to seal the win. The St. Louis Cardinals apparently had other ideas.
Blowing a three-run lead late is always frustrating, however, when you don’t force the other team to swing the bat, it becomes maddening. Pirates pitchers allowed FOUR walks in the eighth inning, which helped turn a win into a disappointing defeat.
The Cardinals pretty much just had to stand at the plate and let the Pirates do the work for them. Felipe Vazquez and Michael Feliz never gave the Pirates a chance as they couldn’t find the strike zone. Feliz allowed a soft single and then walked two straight to load the bases before going way to Vazquez. The former Rivero didn’t do much better as he walked two and quickly allowed the game to slip away.
Following the game, Vasquez complained about forearm discomfort, which hopefully is the cause of his recent failures. Vasquez has now blown three consecutive saves and has looked far from the dominant force we saw nearly all of last season. I am hoping that the forearm injury is the root cause of his struggles because the Pirates cannot afford a mediocre Vazquez as he is way too important to the success of this team’s bullpen.
Weeks like this happen to every team over the course of 162 games but that isn’t much comfort when you are in it. The Pirates will eventually have another successful week of play and that should help wash the stink of this week away. I just hope the team doesn’t wait too long because it doesn’t get much easier ahead as the Chicago Cubs are coming to town. I hope the wind starts blowing in the positive direction, otherwise, it’s going to be another long and disappointing week of Pirates baseball.