Friday, August 24, 2012

Now It Gets Interesting

Hey, all you glum, bummed Bucco fans - pick up your heads and fasten your seat belts. Your team, the one GW picked as a 78-80 win club in the pre-season (o blogger of little faith!), is growing up in front of your eyes. The pitching is as strong as it's been in decades with the pipeline full, and slowly a core of players - Cutch, The Kid, GI Jones, yes, even Pedro, along with Starling  Marte and Travis Snider (crossed fingers) - are developing at the big league level.

Yah, yah, we've heard all about the future ad nauseam, but is it ever gonna arrive? Guess what, dudes - it's here. Hey, maybe Cincy is running away with the division; they are eight games ahead of Pittsburgh and seven in front of the Red Birds with 38 games to go. They just keep on keeping on, with a .603 wining %, second best in baseball right now.

The Bucs have fallen a game out of the wild card race behind St. Louis and 3-1/2 games in back of  front-running Atlanta. But don't let the August blahs fool ya. Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner, former Bucco 2B, Astro manager and Oakland A's consultant, said this on Sportsradio 93-7 of August dog day struggles " seems like you get a second wind almost.  If you kind of get through August without going too far under water, it’s almost like you get to September, and man, you can see the finish line and you pick up strength."

The stretch run schedule can be a funny thing. This year's works out well for the Bucs in the race for the wire.

The Bucs play 28 straight games against the Central Division beginning tonight. Now they don't have much chance to make up ground head-to-head with the Reds and Cards; they only play them three times each during that stretch. But that means that they play Milwaukee nine times (six at PNC) with thirteen games against the Cubs and Astros, having home-and-home series with each club. So there's a lot of room to pad the record in that span.

If they hang in for the next three weeks til the middle of September, the Bucs have a 14 game run against the Cubs, Brewers, Astros and Mets, all of which will be playing for 2013. Then it's really showtime - three games with Cincinnati and three with Atlanta, the wild card leader, at PNC Park to close out the campaign.

And there is reason to believe. AJ Burnett has traditionally struggled in August and rebounded strongly in September. Garrett Jones is zeroed in. The Kid has been rock-steady. Travis Snider looks like a keeper. Jeff Karstens is fresh. Cutch is due for a autumn MVP run. Even with a forgettable 2011, Pedro's been a September monster. heck, Clint Barmes, a notorious fast starter, is reversing that line. The bullpen remains masterful at the back end. And even if management remains inexplicably obstinate in using their minor league talent to bolster the big boys, the September reinforcements from Indy are only a week away.

So don't take to the bridge yet - leave that to the faithful in Philadelphia, Boston and Cleveland. We know that being a Pirate fan is pretty much akin to being the straight man in a long running burlesque skit, with a shaving cream pie to the face chased with seltzer spritz as the inevitable finale. But the schedule sets up quite nicely for the Pirates, and this should be the most exciting September to rock PNC Park, well, ever.

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