My head hurts after watching last night’s game against the Cubs. It seems to me that this game perfectly exposed why the Cubs are dominating this year and the Pirates haven’t managed to in the last four years.
First, bad starting pitching. The error on Brault in the first inning was inexcusable and cost us a run in a game that went into overtime and was ultimately won by a single run. At the major league level, in a tight race for a playoff spot, that kind of poor play is inexcusable.
Second, the Pirates had the Cubs on the run and utterly failed to take advantage. There were at least two opportunities to add even more runs to our three-run lead, and both times they failed to get any men across the plate. They could’ve broken the Cubs’ backs and put the game away for good, and they didn’t. Instead they left them on life support, patiently waiting for the Cubs to come from behind and score a crushing walk-off victory in a game that should’ve been out of reach after the seventh inning.
Third, terrible bullpen decisions and worse bullpen play. Why in the world was Locke left in after the Pirates finally managed to score a run?! He promptly gave up two runs of course, and the game. Watson was equally unsteady, blowing the most crucial save of his short tenure as closer. Feliz inexplicably couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn for the first twenty pitches he threw, and both of the men he walked came around to score.
Finally, the fundamental difference between these two teams. The Pirates had in Andrew McCutchen the best outfield in all of baseball. And they wasted him. They never built a true championship team around him and while the Pirates remained competitive they never had enough to get over the top. This stands in stark contrast to what the Cubs have done. They spent big to bring in high quality talent. Their lineup doesn’t have a single weak point defensively or offensively. They have a cadre of young stars, incredible pitching, and a deep bench at every fielding position. Unlike the Pirates, they have grabbed the reins and taken advantage of their young players like Bryant. The Cubs built a team around that talent, rather than hoping to be carried by it.
The Pirates may never get another chance to win the division. The front office has shown no willingness to build a true winning team. Playing like this, with no heart and no drive, they may not even have a chance at the second wildcard spot. And it’s no one’s fault but their own.