I take it back. After the Pirates' 8-3 loss to the Brewers Wednesday night at PNC Park, I take it all back.
Let's rewind: Tuesday, following a 4-3 loss at home to the Brewers that put the Pirates at 4-20 in their last 24 games, Steven Brault served up the following post-game take:
"It’s [the losing streak has] made our season right now look like it’s been a really bad season, but that’s just not the case. It’s just a really bad stretch. I keep saying we’re not going to finish out this way. It’s a bad stretch and it’s going to look bad, but we’ll get it back together.”
In the comments for that piece, I defended Brault's words. This Pirates team has played well in stretches this season. Maybe they're not a playoff-caliber team, I conceded, but they're also not 4-20 bad.
Turns out, I was right. They're not 4-20 bad. They're 4-21 bad.
And maybe worse.
"I think there always comes a point in time in sport and in life when things don't go like you're expecting, and they can challenge you," Clint Hurdle offered during his post-game media conference. "We're going to run into adversity in all walks of life."
Here's what I heard when Hurdle uttered those words:
Hurdle's run out of ways to explain this post-All-Star-Game collapse. He's drawing analogies to everyday life, falling back on the ol', "Hey, this stuff happens and you have to learn from it" to help provide context. He's doing that because he has to.
This stuff doesn't just happen. It's historically bad in the most literal sense. Dejan Kovacevic dove into the history books to analyze that one immediately after the game. In 133 years in the National League, the Pirates have been this bad six times. Six. Two of those six have come under the direction of Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington and company.
When you have rookies doing this to your team's "best" pitcher in Trevor Williams:
When even seemingly good moments turn out poorly:
And when bad things happen like this 21 times in 25 games, that's exactly when you start turning to philosophy and grander discussions about the hardships we all encounter in life to help ease the pain. It's all Hurdle has left right now, because in a pure baseball sense, the Pirates' current play defies reason.
"How do you balance? How do fight through it? How do you react to it?" Hurdle continued.
So far, the Pirates react by ... losing some more. They committed two ugly errors — one from Pablo Reyes on a botched catch at second off a routine flip from Kevin Newman and one off-target throw from first, past second and into the outfield from Jose Osuna. Williams allowed six runs on eight hits alone. The game was over by the time he left the game after five innings of work. Parker Markel gave up two more in relief anyway, and that was that.
"A lot of us are searching right now," Williams said at his locker after the game. "A lot of us are trying to keep our head above water."
There it is again, that analogy to life — just surviving, not thriving — and that deflection from anything real or tangible on the diamond. It's all the team has left in its grab-bag of explanations. Draw out something abstract — or just be as blunt and as honest as possible.
Like Jacob Stallings.
"I don't really have an answer," Stallings was saying at his locker when asked to break down exactly how he could work with the pitching staff to minimize home runs.
Nobody does. To anything. And while Hurdle, Williams and Stallings all went on to offer some positive takes, some talk about how it's an honor to play in the major leagues and that alone provides reason to go out there and win baseball games, it's tough to ignore the magnitude of this particular slump.
"It's something that we're all striving to get out [of]," Williams said. "... It's going to be good to get our batteries recharged, and we'll look to take the series in St. Louis."
Yeah, no sense dwelling here in this moment. Might as well look forward. Otherwise, you'll end up like Colin Moran at the top of this article, tossing a baseball to yourself long after the game's ended, wondering exactly what went wrong and fabricating comforting analogies to explain it all away.
• Bryan Reynolds went 1 for 4 with an RBI. Starling Marte went 2 for 3, also showing some hustle late in the game after dribbling one down the third-base line to safely reach first. Those two have provided some form of hope and happiness for Pirates fans throughout the recent run, and they kept that rolling tonight.
• Ever the optimist, I served Stallings a softball after the game. C'mon, man, there has to be something to take away from this right? Give me something good:
Eh. I guess.
• For some real joy, let's get this kid a contract:
This baseball is sleeping with the fishes. pic.twitter.com/XrKDEzun2d
— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 8, 2019
And this kid too:
— DK Pittsburgh Sports (@DKPghSports) August 8, 2019
Nice to see the younger generation gets it.
• Tonight's paid attendance: 13,965.
To continue reading, log into your account: