Well, we made it. It’s officially the last week of the 2019 MLB season. The Pittsburgh Pirates enter the final two series of the season with a record of 65-91 mired in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. Not exactly what we hoped for when the season started... Or when the Bucs were sitting one game back of .500 and 2.5 games back of first place at the All-Star Break in July.
A lot of has happened in the past six months. Some good, a lot of bad (both on the field and off). Nonetheless, there are a handful of stories we can try to watch for in the final six games of the MLB season. After all, we’ll be wishing we had Pirates baseball back in our lives soon enough.
One more good turn in the rotation
We should see one more glimpse of Joe Musgrove, James Marvel, Dario Agrazal and Trevor Williams. Assuming there are no wrinkles in the plans, we should see Mitch Keller on Tuesday and the season finale on Sunday.
Musgrove and Williams want to end rocky seasons on a high note. They’ll likely be integral parts of a questionable rotation in 2020, so any positive signs a this point will make Pirates fans/management feel slightly better about that situation.
Marvel and Agrazal are still making cases to be part of that rotation. Offseason moves and Spring Training will also have a lot to do with how that plays out.
Keller, however, is different in that he’s still developing but he’s all but certainly going to be part of the rotation when April comes around, and he’s the best hope the Pirates have for another dominant arm like Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon. We’ve seen some great pitch mix, wavering glimpses of good command, and some stellar strikeout potential. If Keller could start to put those things together and the Cubs and Reds he’ll have Pirates truthers raving about what could be in 2020 for the young righty.
Can one of the stand-out rookies get hot this week?
Joe Block tweeted this on Saturday morning:
#Pirates Bryan Reynolds would need to go 13-for-27 (.481) over the final 8 games to bat .3293, which would surpass current batting leader Christian Yelich (.3292), who is out for the season— Joe Block (@joe_block) September 21, 2019
No National League rookie has ever won the batting title
Bryan Reynolds went 1-for-8 combined on Saturday and Sunday, so it’s fairly safe to say he won’t be winning the National Leage Batting Title in 2019. That being said, he had a miraculous year compared to what we expected when he was called up in a May pinch, so having him land between .320 and .325 would just be cool to see. He’ll be a big piece of the Pirates offense next season.
The same can be said for Kevin Newman, except he was never quite as close as his teammate to the Batting Title race. The shortstop is at .310 after Sunday’s game, and it would be great to see him get to .315ish as well to show just how impressive the rookie tandem was this season.
Solid showing from the bullpen
With Felipe Vazquez’s future very much in doubt for this club, it would be great to see Keone Kela, Michael Feliz, and Richard Rodriguez finish up awesome second halves of the season. Of course, late-inning leads or at least close games will be required for them to truly be tested on this, and it’s tough to know for sure if that’s in the cards. But that group of pitchers plus a few wild cards like Clay Holmes and Geoff Hartlieb were quietly productive when necessary of late, and it would be nice to see them end on a positive note.
Have a playoff impact (AKA don’t just roll over)
The only thing that sucks more than not being in the playoff race at all is to get rolled over by playoff teams who are playing important games... Especially in your home park. It would be awesome for the Bucs to steal a couple of wins against the Cubs to help dash their playoff hopes. It may be wishful thinking, but it’s worth a shot. Chicago has lost five in a row to put them in a real hole heading into this week. If the Pirates can’t make the playoffs, let’s at least make sure the Cubs don’t either.
Have a little fun(?)
I’m not sure if this one is possible. However, it would be great to see the guys scoring some runs, laughing a bit, and rewarding the PNC faithful who stuck it out through this miserable season. With Clint Hurdle’s job on the line, plenty of injuries, and a losing streak this late in the year I can definitely see a depressed team just begging for the end. What I would like to see, however, is for them to think big picture and realize this is their last chance (and the fans last chance) to enjoy some baseball for a while. It’s just a game after all, so let’s get a couple of wins and try to have a good time at the old ball game.