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Rossi: No reason to be wild about these Pirates

| Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, 10:38 p.m.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen strikes out to end the fourth inning against the Reds on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen strikes out to end the fourth inning against the Reds on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
The Pirates' Matt Joyce (left) and Jordy Mercer stand in the dugout during the ninth inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Matt Joyce (left) and Jordy Mercer stand in the dugout during the ninth inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole kneels behind the mound after giving up two runs during the first inning against the Reds on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole kneels behind the mound after giving up two runs during the first inning against the Reds on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison strikes out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison strikes out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison strikes out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison strikes out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates first baseman John Jaso strikes out with runners on to end the eighth inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman John Jaso strikes out with runners on to end the eighth inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen leaves his helmet and bat at the plate after striking out to end the fourth inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen leaves his helmet and bat at the plate after striking out to end the fourth inning against the Reds Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, at PNC Park.

The Pirates are going nowhere. To explore roads leading toward any other outcome for this group would prove a gigantic waste of time.

That is precisely what 3 hours and 17 minutes amounted to Sunday: wasted time.

In a few months, we'll probably think similarly of this entire summer. Their ship steering toward waters neither deep nor shallow and not choppy or calm, these Pirates cannot be considered plunderers or plundering.

They're just there, and there's nothing more to them than that middling status.

After a 7-3 loss at home to the Cincinnati Reds, it's debatable what the Pirates can do well aside from inspire semi-glazed ham from manager Clint Hurdle. His take on the National League wild-card standings was either a taking to task of players or an audition to star in Aaron Sorkin's next project.

“Well, I think it definitely can help from the standpoint that it's tangible,” Hurdle said of the Pirates being near the second wild-card slot despite owning only a 55-54 record.

“But there's got to come a point in a player's career when the uniform becomes tangible and the game becomes tangible. You play out there, (and) you play for the love and respect of your teammates.

“There's not always nuggets at the end. Some years are hard and you don't get things done or you don't get to that place or you don't have that option. You've still got to go out and play. You have a responsibility to play.

“So that's what I hold onto first and foremost. We talked the other day about earning things; you've got to go out and earn them. Well, this wild card has kept a bunch of teams in a tangible place.”

The wild card isn't any more tangible to the Pirates than a crate of stolen tangerines.

If anything, it's a farce, a tease. It's a dream in that it technically gives them a shot to win the World Series.

But c'mon, let's be serious. The Pirates won't win a wild-card game. Who are they going to start?

Gerrit Cole couldn't handle the Reds at home Sunday.

Hurdle said Cole had better “to give” than 5 23 innings and four earned runs. Cole agreed. (What former No. 1 overall pick wouldn't?)

It all sounded neat and clean, especially when Cole stressed the Pirates “have the talent” to leap at least a couple of teams to claim the final postseason spot.

But the Pirates are messy and dirty, and they're starting to stink. They've lost seven of 11. And they've been the more talented team in each game.

They'll be that in a majority of the remaining 53 games, too. Almost half (25) are with opponents that have losing records, against which the Pirates are 26-19.

Still, they are only 8-9 when facing The Losers since the All-Star break. A three-game series against the Padres begins Tuesday, but then the Pirates draw The Winners in 18 of 25 contests.

(The other seven games are against Milwaukee. You can feel where this is going.)

Four months into a season that was intended to bridge from one great multi-season run to the next, the Pirates' problems are many.

Their rotation, impressively deep a year ago, counts rookie Jameson Taillon as arguably its most dependable starter. Their lineup plays better on paper than in the batter's box, with struggling superstar Andrew McCutchen hardly showing signs of a Sidney Crosby-like flashpoint back to fantastic. Even a bullpen that has steadied itself still too often clunks when it's trying to keep a deficit close.

Anybody who bashed general manager Neal Huntington for not hanging on to/failing to acquire players who could improve the Pirates' postseason prospects was way off. If anything, he dutifully could have sold some pieces to create even more payroll flexibility to make over the Pirates in the winter.

They'll need a proper fixing because they're headed for the most dangerous place on the baseball map: at or around Port .500.

To drop anchor in that area is to have wasted everybody's time.

Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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