ShareThis Page
Pirates

Pirates notebook: Quest for winning record no longer huge deal

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, 7:51 p.m.
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte celebrates his two-run homer with Gregory Polanco during the fourth inning against the Reds on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte celebrates his two-run homer with Gregory Polanco during the fourth inning against the Reds on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at PNC Park.

Five years ago, it was a question so pressing it could steal September headlines from the Steelers.

These days, it barely rates as a footnote.

Still, it’s a topic worth pondering for at least a moment in between Le’Veon Bell takes.

Can the Pittsburgh Pirates finish the 2018 season with a winning record?

Heading into the start of a three-game series with the last-place Miami Marlins on Friday night, the Pirates were 69-71.

Matchups with Kansas City and Cincinnati also remain, so three of the Pirates’ final seven series will be against last-place clubs. Meetings with the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals also are on the schedule. Four of the last seven series will take place on the road.

Add it all up, and it’ll probably be a close call.

It’s unlikely anyone in the Pirates clubhouse will be following the quest for 82 wins with much intensity, however.

Shortstop Jordy Mercer was part of the 2013 team that snapped a 20-year streak of losing baseball. He won’t be nearly as excited if the Pirates can avoid a third consecutive losing season this year.

“Making the playoffs is the most important thing,” Mercer said. “Now that I’ve done it for three years, it’s a different feeling. It is. I think that’s ultimately where this organization wants to be, competing every year to make the playoffs, not just have a winning record. It was obviously a big point after the 20 seasons, but now that we made it, it’s just more important now than a winning season.

“If you do have a winning record, yeah, you’re a good team, but we know we’re a good team. We have a lot of good pieces. Whether it’s five wins or six wins or 10 wins (over .500), whatever, if you don’t make the playoffs, it doesn’t matter.”

Speeding up

After stealing nine bases in his first 123 games of the season, Gregory Polanco stole a bag in three of his past six games heading into Friday’s series opener.

Manager Clint Hurdle said it’s part of a team-wide effort to be more aggressive on the basepaths.

“Another part of our game that we’re trying to enhance as we look for areas to improve moving forward,” Hurdle said.

Brault’s spot

Lefty Steven Brault has been effective since an Aug. 20 call-up from Indianapolis. Coming into Friday’s game, he allowed a total of one earned run in five appearances, striking out 14 in 13 2/3 innings.

Hurdle said the Pirates won’t make a determination about Brault’s future role until the end of the season. He began the season as a starter, but given the success of the team’s rotation in recent weeks and Brault’s effectiveness as multi-inning reliever since the promotion, a bullpen spot seems like his likely destination.

“Where does he fit?” Hurdle asked. “There’s always going to be a conversation about a guy that can pitch multiple innings, a job like (Andrew) Miller has done or Brad Hand has done. Is he one of those guys or is he a guy that you want to get back in the starting rotation? Those conversations will take place.”

Injury report

Chad Kuhl continued his rehab from a forearm injury that has kept him out since June, throwing 20 offspeed pitches Friday. He threw 30 fastballs off a mound earlier in the week.

The Pirates hope to get him into a game situation, either in the majors or an instructional league, by the end of the season.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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.

click me