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.
The Pittsburgh Pirates won a series! It’s been so long that I almost forgot what that felt like. It’s not good that the front-runner for best moment of the week was the Pirates winning two games against the Cincinnati Reds but when you go nearly a month between series victories, you take what you can get.
The Reds are the worst team in the National League, so the Pirates should regularly beat them. So I wouldn’t celebrate too much about the series win. It’s good that the Pirates were able to finally end their series losing streak but with a looming series against the first place Milwaukee Brewers, their win streak may be short-lived.
However, I am not here to dwell on the negative because that is not how I do business. The Pirates ended their losing streak and that is a good thing.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates won the opening game of their series against the Reds, they officially won consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month. It was certainly a good feeling but in the grand scheme of things, it did not mean much. One day later, the Pirates FINALLY ended their series losing streak with a fairly comfortable 6-2 victory.
During the Pirates June-swoon, they have struggled to get timely insurance runs. It seems every close game would turn into a crushing defeat. The bullpen is a legitimate cause for concern but one of the best ways to negate that is to get much-needed insurance runs. Josh Harrison certainly provided the difference in the Pirates series-clinching win over the Reds.
Hitting a big home run against the Reds has to feel extra sweet for the Cincinnati native. The players always want to perform well but when you are playing against your childhood team, there is an extra element of motivation. Harrison has made a habit of playing well against the Reds in his career. In 87 games against the Reds, Harrison has a .813OPS with a tOPS+ of 120. To put it bluntly, Harrison enjoys seeing pitchers wearing a Reds cap.
A series victory over a 26-45 team should not be a huge deal but when you’ve struggled the way the Pirates have, you need to start somewhere. The Pirates still have a long way to go to get back into contention. They say the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, so maybe the journey back to winning begins with a single series win over the lowly Reds?
Winning a series is always important. However, when you have a really poor team on the ropes with a chance to sweep, winning two out of three almost seems underwhelming. The Pirates had a really good chance to sweep the Reds but unfortunately, their pitching once again lets them down.
However, no one will be talking about the pitching or the Pirates offense scoring six runs in a losing effort. Heck years from now, no one will remember the result of the game but they will remember one of the best catches in modern history.
Billy Hamilton usually hurts the Pirates with his bat or legs, on Sunday, he decided to hurt the Pirates with his glove. According to Stat Cast, Hamilton had a TWO percent chance of making that catch. He covered over 80 feet of grass and was completely parallel to the ground when the ball landed in his glove.
Sports has a lot of hyperbole but it’s fair to say that Hamilton made one of the best catches in PNC Park history on Sunday. The skill and speed required to even get close to the ball, much less catch it was ridiculous. Francisco Cervelli had no choice but to show Hamilton a massive amount of respect for the catch. When something like that happens, you have to acknowledge just how special it is. As a fan of baseball, you have to respect what Billy Hamilton was able to do.
Hamilton is a one-tool player and his speed is why he was able to make a catch with a 98 percent chance of failure. Speed kills and Billy Hamilton made an absolutely killer catch.
One series victory over the Reds is not enough to say the Pirates are back. Ideally, you would hope the win would kickstart a good streak for the team. However, the Brewers are coming to town and they are one of the best teams in the National League right now. Hopefully, by this time next week, I will be writing about how the Pirates used a series win against the Reds to jumpstart their way back into relevancy. Baseball is a funny game and weirder things have happened.
I am not optimistic at the moment but I am willing to be surprised. They play 162 games for a reason and the Pirates will play better baseball than they have over the last month. Whether that gets them back into contention depends on when it happens. The Pirates are on the cusp of falling way out of any real race. They need to start stacking some wins and there is no better time than the present.