For stretches at a time, the Pittsburgh Pirates play respectably, hugging .500, hanging out in the middle of the division in the third or fourth spot, even second, for a brief period earlier this year. Then, the inevitable happens, and the Bucs end up in last place, where they are now.

The Pirates are a decent team at full strength, usually coming out of the box in April. In past years we were often 12-12, or 12-11 in the opening month. This year’s 10-13 start was uncharacteristically bad, but far better than what took place later.

Then someone gets hurt (Neil Walker) or falls apart (Charlie Morton and Dan McCutchen simultaneously), and all we have to fill the gap is Delwyn Young, in once instance, and Brian Burres (from AA) and Jeff Karstens, (sent back to AAA), in the other.

Other teams have players get hurt this way, but they show more resilience. That’s the sign of a strong bench. With a weak bench, the Pirates can’t manage as well. It seems that they are always just one or two players away from disaster.

This finally shows up in long losing streaks, like those that took place in the horrendous June: 2-13 in Interleague play; not much better, 4-7, against the National League.

Other teams do also go through losing streaks, but not as long or deep (two wins out of 15, plus more losses than wins in the remaining 11 games in the month).

Another problem is that the Pirates NEVER have winning series of comparable length to make up for the losses. Winning teams, like the Yankees, do. And it might not just be in calendar series.

Last year, the New Yorkers started the season series 0-8 against the Boston Red Sox. But they recovered to win nine of the last ten games, neutralizing Boston’s earlier advantage, to capture the AL East division title (Boston got the wild card).

So after a horrid Interleague series, the Pirates took two out of three games with the Chicago Cubs, a no longer redoubtable team. But that just netted one victory out of three games. That’s just a drop in the bucket of our recent losses.


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