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.
For far too many weeks, I had to open this article with a witty, sardonic quip about the Pittsburgh Pirates playing bad baseball. This past week, however, the Pittsburgh Pirates played their best baseball of the season thus far.
Baseball is a game of peaks and valleys and when things are going badly, it’s a never-ending descent into madness. When things are going well, it’s a euphoric and fun journey. This past week has been the kind of stretch that keeps you warm during the bitter, cold losing streaks. The Milwaukee Brewers entered this series as a first place team, while the Pirates were riding out a fairly mediocre streak of baseball. The Pirates likely didn’t change much in regards to their destiny this season, but they absolutely whooped a first-place team and looked really good doing it.
Baseball is designed to break your heart, so it’s important to enjoy the fun moments when they happen and this past week was the most fun I’ve had watching baseball in a long, long time.
For nearly all of June and a big chunk of July, it was tough to pick good moments as the Pirates really struggled and couldn’t get out of their own way. This week, the opposite is true. The Pirates played great baseball all week and somehow saved their best for last.
I don’t think anyone would have complained had the team lost the finale against the Brewers. They won the first four games of the series and really looked good doing it. Sunday’s game was sloppy and at times frustrating. The Pirates definitely did not play their best baseball. Unlike the first four games of the series, it was the Brewers that seemed to get the big hit when they needed it as they jumped to a late 5-2 lead. Impressively, the Pirates battled back and tied the game via a David Freese triple in the ninth inning. The Pirates then gave the lead right back in the top of the 10th and it seemed the dream of a five-game sweep was dead.
The rain started pouring and the Pirates were down to their last out. Then Josh Bell stepped up to the plate…
Some people may not like how crazy the Pirates seemed to react to their victory over the Brewers. Because apparently celebrations are only for when you win a pennant or something. However, I loved it! I loved seeing this team show emotion. You can tell the Pirates skid bothered the players more than anyone. This past week had to feel good for the entire team as they seemed to have a bit of that early season mojo back.
The Pirates may not end up back in the playoff race, but they at least showed a level of resiliency many didn’t believe they had. This team may not be the most talented, but no one can deny they gave you everything they have. They are young and hungry, which is why they can either look like world beaters or they can look like a team destined for the first pick in the draft.
I often said during the June-swoon, the team would bounce back and look better. It may not be enough to get them back into any meaningful pennant race, but it shows the team has character. I am not sure how the rest of this season will play out, but if the team can continue to grow and improve, we will at least have meaningful baseball in August and September. I am okay with that.
When a team goes 7-1 during a week, it can be difficult to find a negative. It would be easy to simply focus on the one loss, a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals as the low point. However, that seems kind of like a cop out. The on-field product was so good, I don’t want to dwell on the one game this week the Pirates played poorly in. Instead, I am going to look at a maddening decision that I don’t fully understand.
Austin Meadows is one of the cornerstones of the Pirates’ future and he looked more than Major League-ready during his nearly two months on the roster. He definitely struggled a bit lately, but that’s expected of young players. For the record, I don’t mind Meadows being sent down to Triple-A if that’s the only place he can find regular at-bats. I do take exception to the fact that he barely played during his last week on the MLB roster.
Meadows is the future of this team and if you don’t think there’s anything left for him to do in Triple-A, play him as much as you can. Him sitting on the bench does nothing for him and it does nothing for the team except waste a young player’s service time. Austin Meadows sitting out for large stretches are unacceptable. The Pirates absolutely botched their handling for Meadows and deserve criticism for it. Meadows needs to play as much as possible and if it’s not going to happen in Pittsburgh, let it happen in Indianapolis. He gains nothing by sitting on the bench, save for a few pinch hitting opportunities.
The Pirates handling of Meadows puts a slight blemish on their incredible week. However, I am a positive person, so I don’t want to dwell too much on the bad. The Pirates had an incredible week of play and deserve credit for it. Kudos to the players for doing one hell of a job. They deserve to enjoy the All Star Break and I hope they come out the gates firing on all cylinders. It would be nice to have a playoff chase to enjoy come September.