Why do the next 24 hours or so make a difference in the Buccos' run for the NL Central roses? Because the roster they have Sunday night will determine if they hang in the race or not; August is the make-or-break month for Pittsburgh.
When they're done with the Phils tomorrow, the dog days start off innocently enough. The Pirates come home to take on the Cubs for a four game set followed by the Padres for a trio of contests. Then showtime begins.
They visit the Giants for three, get a travel day and head to Milwaukee for three more. Then they're home for a crucial three series - St. Louis is at PNC for three, then the Reds, and the homestand is capped with a four gamer against the Brew Crew.
Then it's off to St. Louis for four more, and the month closes with a three game set at Houston.
That's seven games against both the Brewers and Cards this month; the Pirates will have three more games with each club in September, with St. Louis here from the 12th-14th and a season-ending series at Milwaukee.
They'll get some help, even if it's internal. Dewey, Ohlie and Alex Presley could all be back around the time of the Giants-Brewers road trip. Jose Tabata could return by mid-month. Presley and Doumit should be integrated into the lineup quickly. Ohlendorf will likely be worked in as a bullpen guy and spot starter, ala Jeff Karstens, and see lots of action as the team looks to give some of the starters an extra day off or even miss a turn to preserve their arms. Tabata's return will allow Hurdle the luxury of a stable lineup.
That shores up the roster some, but it doesn't address the black holes of right field and first base, prime production positions which have been contributed next to nothing to the Bucco attack. We have to assume that Lyle Overbay has a very tenuous hold on first, and for that matter on a roster spot as he's had one RBI in the past six weeks despite starting virtually every day.
If nothing else - and the market for first basemen is slim, although there are a couple of capable corner OF'ers available - Jones and Steve Pearce should begin platooning there, and John Bowker brought up to alternate in right just like last September. They could also use Paul or Dewey in a platoon role once Presley returns if they don't want to burn a 40 man spot for Bowker while waiting on JT.
Ideal? Of course not. But if the Buc FO can't pull the trigger on a deal - and it's been a sellers' market even more so than usual this year, so we'll see what tomorrow brings; hey, we'll even take a blocked AAA guy akin to Jones - it's the hand Clint Hurdle pretty much has to play during the dog days.