Diary of a long suffering Pirates fan. Games 30-32. Fire Canada! Call up Mason Rudolph! Is KP batting cleanup?

But most of all, everyone please stay positive. It's the negative thinking that'll get you.
Pittsburgh Pirates v Oakland Athletics
Pittsburgh Pirates v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

I wonder who is looking forward to the upcoming Pirates vs. Rockies series more?  The Colorado pitchers who will get to face the hitters that have scored the fewest runs in baseball since April 15?  Or the Pirates’ hitters who will get to face the pitchers that have given up the most runs in baseball?  Hard call.

The Pirates return home to Pittsburgh licking their wounds after a 1-5 California road trip.  In the six games in California, the Pirates were a collective 2 for 36 with runners in scoring position and stranded a total of 46 runners in the two series.  For context. 2 for 36 is a .055 batting average. It's like having a pitcher come to bat with a runner in scoring position every time. Only worse. Even pitchers batted .100 in similar situations when they were still batting in the National League. Perhaps the Pirates didn't get the memo about the National League adopting the DH.

In the Oakland series, they managed only 3 runs.  And not once in the entire series did they have multiple hits in one inning.  The final insult came on Wednesday afternoon when journeyman pitcher Ross Stripling shut out the Pirates for six innings.  Stripling was 0-5 coming into the game and hadn’t won a game in the majors since 2022.  Guess he was happy to see the Pirates come to town. And the A's, as a whole, are probably disappointed to see the Pirates leave town. "Too bad we only play them three times per year," they're probably thinking.

The Pirates run production drought is so bad that Pirates fans now know who the hitting coach is.... which, unfortunately, is never a good thing. “Andy Haines?  Isn’t that the guy that used to try to sell Mr. Douglas useless stuff on the television show, "Green Acres?"  "He's the batting coach? Oh, no.   My bad. That was Mr. Haney.  Right.  This is Haines, not Haney.  This is so confusing. I thought it was Matt Canada who was the Pirates offensive Coordinator.  Didn’t the Pirates already fire Canada?  Oh, that was the Steelers.  Right.  Well, either way, they need to fire this Mr. Haney guy.  Clearly, the stuff he is selling the Pirates hitters is as useless as the stuff he tried to sell to Mr. Douglas for all those seasons on Green Acres. Arnold the Pig might do better as the hitting coach. Is he available?”

So, there were a lot of dejected and upset Pirates after the game.  All of them were disappointed in their performance.  All of them stoically pronounce a determination to get better.  And all of them trying to stay positive in a sea of negative results.  As reported by Joe Smeltzer of Pittsburgh Baseball Now, Andrew McCutchen said after the game:  “What happens when everything is about negativity?  Your mind follows that as well.  How are you going to succeed when you’re thinking negatively, right?  So, you have to do your best to stay positive.”

Yep.  That is difficult.  Staying positive. Especially when the Pirates fan base, itself, is scarred by 44 years of negativity.

But, in that spirit, and as a tribute to Cutch, I will keep this article positive.  We will not dwell in the losses or lack of hitting in the past week.  But instead, point out some of the positive things happening with the Pirates.

  1. These cleats were made for walking. Boy do the Pirates know how to draw walks.  They are averaging 4.06 walks per game, which is third in the MLB.  If and when the bats start going, these walks should turn into runs.  And those runs will hopefully turn into victories.

2.        The starting pitching has been really good, even on the road trip. The Pirates are getting quality starts out of their starting pitchers. Even Quinn Priester had two quality starts on this road trip.  If the bats come around, this starting pitching could carry the Pirates a long way.  Especially when Paul Skenes arrives to bolster an already very good rotation.

3. Despite the putrid offense, the Pirates were still in all of these games. A clutch hit here or there could have turned their fortunes around. Heck, if they had just hit to a Mario Mendoza level (.200) with runners in scoring position, they would have won a few of these ball games. So given the very good starting pitching the Pirates have, a return to just the norm for the Pirates offense could lead to some sustained winning.

4.       The Pirates are 14-18.  While not a good start, it’s still early enough to recover.  For instance.  (a) The 1969 Miracle Mets started their championship season 14-17 before righting the ship and going on to win the World Series that year.  (b) The 2003 Miami Marlins started that 2003 season at 15-19.  They went on to win the World Series that year.  (c) The 2019 Washington Nationals started their World Series championship season at 14-18.  (d) And finally, I give you the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies, who started their season 14-17.  Although the Phillies did not win the World Series, they did win the National League pennant and did go to the World Series.

5.       While the Pirates did get shut out by the A’s on Wednesday, their AAA minor league team the Indianapolis Indians walloped the second place Buffalo Bison by a score of 14-5.  Similarly, the Pirates high A minor league affiliate the Greensboro Grasshoppers won their Wednesday game against the Winston Salem Dash by a score of 14-4.  Clearly there is hitting going on in other parts of the Pirates minor league system.

6.       Speaking of the Grasshoppers.  They now have a record of 14-8 and are tied for first place in the South Atlantic North Division.  They lead the league in home runs and are second in team OPS.  Their pitching is nothing to sneeze at either.  They are second in team e.r.a. in the League.

7.       Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Indians have moved into third place in the International League West division.  There is still work to be done there.  But the Indianapolis hitters sport the highest team batting average in the international league.

8.       Paul Skenes.  You may have heard of this guy.  First overall pick in last year’s draft.  There are reports that he may be called up to the big league club in the upcoming homestand.  If so, that may generate a tiny bit of buzz. 

So while it was a disappointing road trip, the Pirates return to Pittsburgh to start a 9-game home stand. 

Perhaps they can right the ship.  Perhaps Pirates fans will actually see some runs scored and some slumps broken.  First up is the Colorado Rockies, whose fans are probably saying just the opposite of Pirates fans, something along the lines of “perhaps we will see some quality starts for a change.  Perhaps we can hold a team to fewer than five runs.”  May the best team in need of breaking out of a slump win.