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Perrotto: Nothing Ever Really Changes with the Pirates

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Derek Shelton

PITTSBURGH – I preface this by saying I realize I’m not going to win the Scoop of the Year with this proclamation –the Pittsburgh Pirates are a bad baseball team.

Just like the 2019 Pirates. And the 2020 Pirates. And the 2021 Pirates. And the 2022 Pirates. And most Pirates teams since the franchise’s last World Series appearance in 1979.

That 20-8 record the Pirates had at the end of April fooled me. While I certainly didn’t plan on covering the World Series in October, I thought they had at least returned to respectability.

Instead, it’s more of the same.

The lack of talent shows when the Pirates play a good team. Then there are the fundamental breakdowns, bad baserunning, beheaded defensive plays, abysmal situational hitting and on and on.

It became obvious on a very hot and lethargic Sunday at PNC Park that the Pirates have devolved from one of baseball’s best stories to just being plain awful.

The Pirates gave up five runs in the top of the 10th inning and lost to the San Francisco Giants 8-4. What made the loss particularly perplexing is that the Pirates had a chance to win the game in the eighth inning and messed up royally.

After Jared Triolo’s sacrifice fly drew the Pirates into a 3-3 tie, they had runners on the corners with one out.

Tucupita Marcano followed with an awful at-bat. He fouled two squeeze bunt attempts and then went down swinging.

Nick Gonzales was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Jason Delay struck out as the Pirates failed to advance a runner the necessary 90 feet to win the game.

So, any chance of the Pirates building any momentum out of the All-Star break is gone. They were swept in the three-game series by the Giants and are 2-10 in July.

Since that 20-8 start, the Pirates have gone 21-44. That’s a .323 winning percentage, which extrapolates.to a 52-110 record over a 162-game season.

It seemed unfathomable at the beginning of May that the Pirates could possibly lose 100 games for a third straight year.

It probably won’t happen, but it is also no longer unfathomable. The Pirates need to go 22-47 the rest of the way to avoid triple digits. That is not a lock.

I asked ever-optimistic manager Derek Shelton two questions following Sunday’s game. He didn’t provide long answers, but he also didn’t need to.

I asked if it was disheartening that the Pirates have played so poorly since being 20-8.

“Yes,” Shelton said.

Then I asked if he was surprised.

“I don’t know if it surprises me,” Shelton said. “It’s just, we have to play better.”

I was asked a question myself before the game by former Pirates reliever Dan Plesac. He was in town as part of the broadcast crew for Peacock, which streamed the game to a national audience.

Plesac wanted to know if I thought the Pirates were making progress.

My answer was yes, and I explained that I felt there have been enough good signs in the big leagues and minor leagues to think the Pirates could start winning in 2024 or 2025.

If Plesac asked me the same question after the game, I’m pretty sure I’d have had a different answer.

It just became more of the same with the Pirates. Year after year after year after year after year.

 

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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