3 ways Pirates can avoid losing 100 games this season | TribLIVE.com

3 ways Pirates can avoid losing 100 games this season

Jerry DiPaola
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell takes a deep breath during an at-bat against the Cardinals on July 22, 2019, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller takes the field for his PNC Park debut Tuesday, June 18, 2019, against the Tigers.

There are some things best not discussed in polite company.

The possibility of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ losing 100 games is one of them.

It has happened only seven times in club history that dates to 1887. The record is 113, set in 1890. Manager Guy Hecker was not asked to return for the 1891 season.

But it also has happened twice in this century:

• The Pirates lost 100 in 2001. It was Lloyd McClendon’s rookie season as manager and the first at PNC Park.

• John Russell was fired as manager after the 2010 season when the team lost 105 games, second-most in franchise history.

Presently, the Pirates (48-66) would need to lose 34 of their remaining 48 games to reach 100.

Impossible? Probably, but who would have guessed they’d lose 21 of 25?

Here’s what needs to happen over the final two months for the Pirates to crawl back to respectability:

Bell’s triumphant return

Bell can’t be the first hitter to lose his home-run power just because pitchers aren’t throwing him enough strikes. And the few home-run swings he took in Cleveland almost five weeks ago have nothing to do what is happening now.

Bell is a smart player, a perfectionist to a fault. He didn’t hit 27 home runs in 86 games by accident. When he figures out why he hasn’t hit another since July 5, he’ll carry the team for a while.

Not long enough to lift them from last place in the National League Central, but this season is about small victories.

Get Keller into rotation

Keller is the Pirates’ top pitching prospect and a player the team will need next season, especially considering their reluctance to pay top dollar for free-agent starters.

He was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, indicating something’s up. The Pirates plan to bring Keller back to the majors in time to start Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels, MLB.com reported.

Funny how that worked out. General manager Neal Huntington indicated Keller’s return to the minors was largely because Dario Agrazal’s presence in the rotation. So when Agrazal struggled a day after Huntington’s proclamation, Keller no longer was blocked.

Keller has struck out 67 Triple-A batters in his past 5623 innings (10 starts).

He could get six starts if the Pirates keep him in the regular rotation. But he will have to do better than his 10.50 ERA and 21 hits in 12 innings during his first three major league starts this season.

Act like games matter

They do matter. It would be embarrassing to lose 100 games only four seasons after winning 98.

Manager Clint Hurdle should stick to his regular lineup and experiment only with players who have a future with the team.

Use minor league call-ups judiciously.

And he needs to keep Bryan Reynolds in left field, the better for him to win the batting title.

Reynolds has enough at-bats to qualify, and he trails the Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich by two percentage points (.336-.334).

Maybe that will keep the fans interested over the final 24 home games.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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