The Pirates were such a cuddly story this year. Like, oh, two weeks ago. They were so wee and contending and surprising and not terrible and contending. Then Clint Hurdle looked in a mirror and said "Pittsburgh Pirates" three times. Now everyone's dead. Shouldn't have done that.
The Pirates have lost ten games in a row, probably as a punishment for daring to acquire players at the trading deadline.
Welcome to the Pirates, Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick! We'll introduce you at a press conference in just a couple of oh crap we're out of the race.
But the Pirates need to lose more. It makes me feel guilty to wish for that sort of thing, but here we are. The Giants went through a stretch of misery themselves, and they can't drop a home series to the Pirates right now. The Giants need to do that earthy hunter thing where they thank the animal that they just killed for sustenance, praying for its safe passage to the spirit world. Completely unavoidable at this point.
So in the grand tradition of making too big of a deal about small samples, this will be the most telling series of the season. Here are the pitchers the Giants will face:
When the Pirates were atop their division, it was mostly because Morton and Karstens were pitching exceptionally well. But they really aren't that good. Morton has a great sinker that he can't quite command just yet, and his peripherals were really strange for an effective pitcher, even by sinkerballer standards. Karstens was allowing a home run every other inning, but he was doing it without runners on base. Part of that is because Karstens doesn't walk a lot of hitters (25 in 130 innings), but part of it had to do with small-sample shenanigans.
Can those three shut down the Giants, though? Of course. It's another resistible force/movable object showdown. Who is going worse, the Pirates' starting pitching or the Giants' hitting? The Giants absolutely have to start hitting against this trio. Not because it's a must-win series -- there are still two months now, come on -- and not because they need to send a message or a wake-up call or a wake-up message call to fire up the clubhouse with a wake-up message. They need to start hitting against the Pirates because check out these start times:
8/8 - 7:15
8/9 - 7:15
8/10 - 12:45
Each one of those times is right after I eat. If I have to watch Aubrey Huff roll a bunch of Jeff Karstens mediumballs to second, I'll be more than a little vomity. It's not that the Pirates or their pitchers are bad -- it's that if the Giants fancy themselves contenders, they need to able to hit against them. And by "hit," I'm not saying they need to explode for eight runs in the first three innings of every game, I'm suggesting that they score four runs or so in each game. Modest expectations. If they can't do that against the Pirates at home, I ... I ... don't have more room in my heart for more yuck right now.
This should be the perfect series for the Giants right now -- a struggling, deflated team coming into a park that's normally tough on visiting teams. In theory, it looks good. In theory, Brandon Belt wasn't ever going to be blocked because Huff could just move on over to a corner outfield spot. Theories suck, and the people who espouse them should be ashamed of themselves.
It'd be redundant to say this series fills me with dread. Every series following a bad stretch fills me with dread. This one isn't different. For some reason, though, this one is like a mixture of exasperation and dread. Apparently the Pirates are the Pirates again. Can the Giants please do something with that?
Hitter to watch
Ryan Doumit is a catcher. Ryan Doumit can kind of hit. Ryan Doumit can kind of catch. Ryan Doumit is kind of expensive. While I still sort of hope Ramon Hernandez makes it to the Giants on a waiver claim, something tells me that Doumit is more of a realistic option.
Don't look too close, of course, but this is a good chance to check him out. He has a $7.25 million team option for next year that no one is going to want, so he's pretty much a pending free agent. The Pirates should want to get something back for him. Like, say, a Thomas Neal kind of prospect.
Pitcher to watch
Joel Hanrahan is same age as Brian Wilson. I would like Wilson to call him up and ask how he stopped worrying and learned to love the strikes. Hanrahan went from a five-walk-per-nine guy to a control master in just over 100 innings. Man, how I'd love for Wilson to do the same.
Five runs. Here's hoping they're allocated in a manner that is favorable to the Giants.