Bucs' streak of futility hits 20 straight seasons
For eight innings Sunday afternoon, it almost felt like the Pirates' Great Collapse of the past two months had never happened.
Wandy Rodriguez tossed seven gritty innings against the Cincinnati Reds, the nastiest team in the NL Central. Garrett Jones smacked a clutch, two-run homer. Andrew McCutchen delivered a go-ahead single that had the near-capacity crowd buzzing.
Then came the ninth inning, and it was back to reality.
A blown save and a baserunning snafu allowed the Reds to steal a 4-3 victory, clinching the Pirates' 20th consecutive losing season.
Eight weeks ago, the Pirates were 16 games over .500 and had a wild-card playoff berth in their grasp. Since then, they have gone 15-36 and fallen out of the race.
“Nobody saw this coming,” said Jones, his soft voice barely discernible in the silent clubhouse. “Everybody's pretty ticked off.”
The once-proud, 126-year-old franchise has not had a winning season since 1992.
“It is disappointing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Especially (because) we got to a point where we were talking playoffs. Unfortunately, it all got away from us.”
Closer Joel Hanrahan was unable to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Xavier Paul, a journeyman outfielder who played for the Pirates last year, lifted a pinch-hit homer over the Clemente Wall to tie it at 3.
“I missed with a couple sliders, and he was sitting dead red,” Hanrahan said. “I left a fastball out over the plate, and he yanked it.”
With two outs, Ryan Ludwick doubled on an 0-2 pitch. Zack Cozart lined a go-ahead, RBI double to left field.
“It's not like the pressure gets to me,” Hanrahan said. “I had a guy 0-2, and I didn't put him away. You can't do that.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Jose Tabata drew a leadoff walk. When Aroldis Chapman's pickoff attempt sailed into right field, Tabata sprinted to second base, then tried for third.
“(Third-base coach) Nick Leyva sent me,” Tabata said. “I didn't see where the ball was. It took a perfect throw.”
Second baseman Wilson Valdez's throw nailed Tabata by a step.
“Once he's waved, he's going,” Hurdle said. “It turned out not to be a good decision.”
After that, Clint Barmes walked, and Rod Barajas singled to left — the hit likely would have scored Tabata had he held up at second base. Michael McKenry struck out looking. Starling Marte struck out swinging at a 99-mph fastball that was out of the zone.
The Pirates' run of losing seasons is the longest among North American professional sports teams. McCutchen said that streak — not the team's magical first-half run — will be the indelible stamp of the 2012 season.
“No one will remember what we did in the first half of the season,” McCutchen said. “We've got to figure out how to catch a second wind and keep moving forward.”
General manager Neal Huntington has begun assessing every coach, scout, player and training system in the organization. The club is 335-471 (.416) in Huntington's five years at the helm.
“We're going to evaluate everything,” he said. “But there is going to be a much more intense focus on the past two months when it unraveled for us.”
This winter, there will be turnover to the roster — and perhaps in the front office. Owner Bob Nutting has begun his own appraisal of the executive staff, and he has the final say over who stays and who goes.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Struggling Pirates SS Mercer finding himself out on infield’s left side
- Pirates notebook: Marte gets earful from Hurdle about lazy play
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Mets, May 22, 2015
- Mauer’s 13th-inning homer spells doom for Pirates in home loss
- Rossi: Hurdle needs better players, not blame
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Twins, May 19, 2015
- Rossi: Not too early to go with Kang
- Streaking Cubs defeat punchless Pirates, 4-1
- Starting 9: Should Pirates maximize McCutchen window by trading for a star?
- Pace-of-play rules are catching on with Pirates this season
- Alvarez’s homer into river not enough for Pirates in loss to Twins