PITTSBURGH – The dog days of August won’t be here for a couple more weeks.
However, it feels like the dog days have already arrived at PNC Park. And it has nothing to do with Pup Night or Bark in the Park or whatever the Pittsburgh Pirates call those promotional events where fans bring canines along to the ballpark.
The heat has been oppressive with humidity to match, and it has been sticky along the banks of the Allegheny River.
Furthermore, the Pirates have lost both games to the San Francisco Giants coming out of the All-Star break, including falling 3-1 on Saturday night despite seven innings of one-hit ball by Johan Oviedo. Oviedo hasn’t won since May 19, and it feels like neither have the Pirates.
It is hard to imagine the energy level being very much higher on Sunday with a 12:05 p.m. start thanks to our friends at Peacock, who will stream the game nationally, likely to hundreds of fans.
Perhaps Monday night will be different when the Cleveland Guardians come to town for the first time since they were known as the Indians – if I’m allowed to say that. A few Guardians fans figure to make their way across the turnpike and the Beaver County town of New Brighton should be represented with native son and Cleveland manager Terry Francona visiting.
If nothing else, the major-league debut of pitching prospect Quinn Priester might put a little charge into the Pirates. The exuberant 22-year-old will officially reach the big leagues a little more than four years after being a first-round draft pick when the Pirates select his contract from Triple-A Indianapolis.
“We’re very happy about the opportunity that he’ll have on Monday,” Pirates pitching coach Oscar Marin said Saturday. “He’s a pitcher and we’ve all seen it and that’s what we’re expecting to see when he gets the opportunity here.
“It’s always exciting. It’s exciting just because the one thing you always think about is the kind of depth you have and the expectation of what you’re going to see. It’s exciting to see some of these guys, and for good reason. When they come up, they come up for a reason. It’s always exciting when we see guys come up.”
If you didn’t pick up on it, Marin is excited. The Pirates could use excitement.
The Pirates dropped a season-low 10 games under .500 at 41-51 after Saturday night’s loss. Since going 20-8 to begin the season, they are 21-43.
In other words, they have one more win in their last 64 games than they did in their first 28.
Priester did not exactly dominate the International League during his time in Indianapolis. He went 7-5 with a 4.31 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 18 starts while striking out 84 in 87.2 innings.
Those who make a living at rating prospects seem split on Priester’s potential. MLB Pipeline ranks Priester as baseball’s No. 54 prospect while Baseball America does not have him in its top 100.
“It’s a situation where he’s continuing to get better and deserves to get an opportunity at the major-league level,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of the decision to call up Priester. “We’re going to be excited about that.”
Considering the Pirates are 2-9 in July, they can use whatever juice they can get before the real dog days get here.