Pirates set for Central showdown with Reds
By John Grupp
Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012, 4:28 p.m.
Updated: Friday, August 3, 2012
Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park will be packed this weekend and not just because Friday is Fireworks Night and Saturday is a Johnny Cueto bobblehead giveaway.
The last time the Pirates played such a meaningful series this late in the summer — against Cincinnati or anyone else — was 15 years ago.
As the Pirates prepare for a three-game series at the first-place Reds, who are 20-2 in their past 22 games, it marks a rare late-summer series with something at stake.
Sure, there have been some moments for the Pirates that drew attention away from Steelers training camp or the start of Pitt football two-a-days. But only a couple involved the playoffs; the others were bids — albeit failed — to end a losing-season drought that has reached a North American-record 19 years in a row.
• The most compelling, of course, was the second-half push in September 1997, when the Pirates and their $9 million payroll got within 11⁄2 games of the NL Central-leading Astros only to come up short. It started with a 7-3 loss to the Indians and included losing three of four in Cincinnati and two in Montreal. When the 1-6 skid was over, the Pirates were 70-76 and never got closer than 31⁄2 games of the Astros.
• Last year at this time, the once first-place Pirates were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, getting swept by the Phillies, Cubs and Padres, to turn a 54-49 late July record into a forgettable 72-90 finish.
• In '04, the Pirates were flirting with .500, holding a 58-61 mark on Aug. 19. But they lost four games in three days to the Cardinals and limped to a 72-89 finish.
• In '98, the Pirates won 13 of 15 games to improve to 64-68 on Aug. 28. But a 2-0 loss to Houston's Randy Johnson began a momentous skid of 5-25 in their final 30 games to finish 69-93.
• The next year, in '99, the Pirates were 75-76 on Sept. 23, but they lost three of four at Wrigley Field to an eventual 95-loss Cubs team. Still, with a 78-80 record heading into the final series of the season and a chance at an elusive winning record, the Pirates were swept at the Mets.
McCutchen named NL Player of Month
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has been voted the National League Player of the Month for the second consecutive month.
McCutchen hit .446 with 22 runs scored, seven home runs and 15 RBI in 25 games in July. He had a .739 slugging percentage and a .510 on-base percentage. McCutchen becomes the first Pirate to win two Player of the Month honors in the same season since Bobby Bonilla in 1988 and the first NL player to win multiple awards since Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in 2006.
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7930.
You must be signed in to add comments
To comment, click the Sign in or sign up at the very top of this page.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.