Despite bearing witness to an 11-0 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night, the residents of Pittsburgh have yet to descend into a level of panic not seen since Bane decided to stage a memorable tailgate at a Rogues game.
They have a few reasons to follow the advice of the 'Burgh's top columnist and not get their breeches in a bunch, too. Heading into Wednesday's action, the Pirates were still 12 games over .500, haven't been swept in a series since early June and still hold the top spot in the National League wild-card race. They're also healthy, which counts.
Of course, there are also plenty of dark linings for the pessimistic fans to seek out in self defense-seeking preparation for a season-ending freefall. The Buccos have gone 5-8 to start the month of August, have opened the season's longest homestand with a 3-6 mark and have now lost two straight to one of the teams closest to them in the wild-card race. The NL Central title is out of discussion for the moment as Cincinnati has opened a six-game lead in the division.
Oh, and Clayton Kershaw is taking the hill for the Dodgers on Wednesday in the third game of the four-game set. It's enough to make even the most reasonable and logical of Pirates fans get a bit antsy over the Pirates' prospects of recovering from this hiccup.
Here's what Pat Lackey of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? writes:
I've been preaching "patience is a virtue" for a while now with this recent Pirate slump. The fact of the present, though, is that if the Pirates don't start playing good baseball in a hurry here at the end of August, they're going to have to playreally good baseball in September to make up for the ground they'll lose to the Dodgers and Cardinals this week. That means better baserunning, that means unexpected relievers stepping up, that means better hitting and pitching in general. Even with two wild cards, playoff spots aren't just handed out for free.
Lackey raises a good point with that last line. While the increase in playoff spots means more opportunities to comfortably reside in one during the regular season, the number of teams pursuing those spot has not changed. And given the close nature of the races in both leagues, teams can rotate in and out of those spots on a nightly basis.
That's not a good recipe for the mental health for fans of contending teams like the Pirates. But nothing ever came easy — especially when you're talking about ending a 19-season slump and a wild-card race designed to keep as many teams in contention for as long as possible . The best that Bucs fans can really do right now and hope that Clint Hurdle's description of this "worst patch" remains relative to the season and not the 19 that came before it.