What are Pirates’ 2nd-half needs as postseason push continues? | TribLIVE.com

What are Pirates’ 2nd-half needs as postseason push continues?

Jerry DiPaola
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 18: Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Petco Park May 18, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco prepares to bat next to Josh Bell during the first inning against the Rockies Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at PNC Park.

You can do the math, but you may not like how it adds up.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be contenders for a National League postseason berth when they resume their quest Friday at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.

But claiming one of the five playoff spots won’t be easy. In fact, it may be too much to expect.

How many victories will it take?

A quick history lesson shows the minimum number of victories by a wild-card team since the format expanded was in 2012 — 87 by the Mets and Giants in 2016 and the Rockies the following year.

At 44-45, the Pirates will need to win 43 of their remaining 73 games. That’s 13 games over .500 after playing more than half the season at one under.

There are five teams between the Pirates and the second wild-card position.

So perhaps the NL Central title is a more realistic goal, it makes for a quicker path to the World Series.

But since 2008, the NL Central winner has won at least 90 games.

This season might be an outlier, with only 4 1/2 games separating first place from last. Perhaps 85 will do it, but that’s also difficult to attain.

In any case, the Pirates have some serious work to do between the lines and on the phones as the July 31 trading deadline approaches.

Here’s how they can get there.

1. Better starting pitching

Let’s start with Chris Archer, a trade-deadline acquisition last year who has not performed like a pitcher who cost the Pirates three promising players.

In nearly a full season since August 2018, Archer is 6-9, with a 5.02 ERA and 1.43 WHIP while allowing 28 home runs in 131 innings.

Physically, he has the tools, which he’s displayed while striking out 148 batters.

The time needed to adjust to the National League is over. It’s time for Archer, a great teammate in the clubhouse, to show some greatness on the mound.

And the time is now: Archer is the starting pitcher Friday.

2. Another home run bat

The Pirates lead the National League with a .271 team batting average, but something’s missing.

They are only 26th in the majors with 98 home runs. Only the Giants (88) and Marlins (68) have hit fewer in the National League.

The big bat Gregory Polanco was swinging before his shoulder injury last year would help. After last year’s break, he clubbed 23 extra-base hits, including seven homers, in 44 games.

The Pirates have plenty of outfielders wielding hot bats, but what if one or two of them cool or get hurt? Are the Pirates going to finish with a .271 batting average, which would be their best since hitting .273 in 1982?

Clint Hurdle has a way of finding at-bats for everyone. If Polanco’s shoulder is feeling better by August — he’s hit only one home run in nine games on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Indianapolis — he would be a welcome addition to the lineup.

3. External help

Injuries have hit the Pirates hard, but that’s no excuse.

“My dad told me a long time ago, ‘Life’s not fair,’ “Hurdle said recently. “You have to figure out how to deal with it.”

You can speculate on what the team would be like with full seasons from Jameson Taillon, Keone Kela and Polanco. Even just two of those.

But it doesn’t change the fact that there are holes on the roster.

General manager Neal Huntington has been and will be on the phones almost every day through the end of the month trying to find a deal that makes sense now and in the future.

You’ve read and heard about Madison Bumgarner. Would six or seven innings per game over 10 starts (Archer’s total after the trade last year) be the worth trading away two first-round draft picks? Yes, if it comes with a guaranteed berth in the postseason.

There will be pitchers and position players available at lesser cost.

The pitching staff has been too inconsistent and too reliant on minor-league arms for Huntington to do nothing.

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

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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.