This series of losses against the Bucs' top divisional rival has felt like an elaborately sadistic joke about all the ways a team can come close to scoring without actually doing so. In a month, or two months, we'll probably look back at all this series with, at most, a tinge of regret. And yet watching the games feels like being a Kafka protagonist right now. When the Pirates put a runner on base, it is now cause for suspicion, not hope or celebration. How, we think, will our team blow it this time?
Another day, another good pitching performance mostly wasted (this time from Vance Worley, who struck out five while allowing only a Matt Carpenter homer and a few less significant hits over six innings). Another bundle of runners left on base for the offense (nine through the first eight innings).
Finally, Jung-Ho Kang stepped up in a big way in the ninth, tying the game at one by smashing a Trevor Rosenthal curveball to left-center for his first big-league home run. Kang's OPS is now .752, and as you watched, you could feel yourself wanting to feel a little hope -- about him, which was reasonable, but also about the game. Mark Melancon's entrance in the bottom of the inning, on the other hand, portended certain doom, but somehow he avoided it, getting a strikeout and a couple deep fly ball outs to retire the side.
And then, extra innings. In the 10th, the Pirates returned to their familiar pattern, putting two men on and stranding them. But Rob Scahill went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, then returned in the 11th and loaded the bases before retiring Tony Cruz to send the game into the 12th.
The Cardinals got two outs, but then Pedro Alvarez (who also walked four times today, not that that gave him a prayer of scoring) stepped to the plate and smashed a fastball into the Cards' bullpen in right. 2-1 Pirates! Maybe today would finally be their day!
Alas, it was Busch, and it was this series. Radhames Liz entered in the bottom of the 12th and gave up a couple singles and a walk to load the bases, and then Peter Bourjos hit a grounder off Josh Harrison's glove to score the tying run. Liz escaped without further damage, and the game headed to the 13th, which was uneventful. With no one on and one out in the bottom of the 14th, though, Liz floated some sort of changeuppy thing for Kolten Wong to clobber to right, and just like that, it turned out the inevitable was in fact inevitable, as the Cardinals won on their third straight walk-off.
I'm out of analysis at this point. It's clear that the Pirates are a flawed team, but this entire series was just one LOB after another. I don't think there are fixes for that, and I don't think it portends anything massively wrong, except insofar as the Bucs' offense has played badly in general. (The goat today was Josh Harrison, who went 0-for-7 and is now hitting .188.) But the fact that we're supposed to be reasonable about this doesn't make it anything less than excruciating to watch unfold.