Dunlap: Key Stretch Will Make Or Break Pirates Season

The next 13 games will decide the Pirates’ season and, maybe more to the point, what this club will ultimately do at the trade deadline. 

Colin Dunlap
June 24, 2019 - 4:38 pm
ittsburgh Pirates catcher Elias Diaz (32) and shortstop Kevin Newman (middle) and right fielder Melky Cabrera

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - This is it, right now. 

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There isn’t another way to put it or see it. This is it. 

As the Pittsburgh Pirates have the day off before jumping on a jet and heading down to Houston, they sit in a last place tie with the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central --- both teams at 36-40 and 5.5 games back of the division-leading Cubs. The Brewers and Cardinals are sandwiched between and each have winning records on the season to this point as June will soon flip over on the calendar to July. 

Related: Pirates Josh Bell Advances To All-Star Starters Selection

But here we are --- this is it. The next 13 games will decide the Pirates’ season and, maybe more to the point, what this club will ultimately do at the trade deadline. 

You see, even as they are mired in last place in the NL Central, they are just 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card. Admittedly it feels (and even kind of looks) like there are about 71 teams between them and a realistic chance of grabbing that second spot but 3.5 games is, to be true, just 3.5 games. 

Now, about those 13 games … 

Between now and the All Star Break the Pirates will first head to Houston for three games, then play three at Milwaukee, then jump home for a four-game series with the Cubs and finish out the first-half hosting the Brewers for three. That’s 13 games against three teams with a combined 133-101 record right now. 

That won’t be easy. Not by any stretch. And the first three out of the gate in this 13-game stretch particularly won’t be easy considering the Pirates will see three Houston starters and none of them have an ERA above 3.70 headed into their game with Pittsburgh. That’s saying something at this time of the year. 

I don’t know what to think --- but I know what the worst-case scenario would be. One would think the worst-case scenario is to be in a position at the deadline about where they are now, where the standings say they are 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card, but logic says they are out of it as there are seven teams between them and that spot.

Will they be buyers? Will they be sellers? That all remains to come into focus. What I do know is being within striking distance in theory (but not really in logic) might be something that could happen and something that would set the franchise back in the long run. 

In these 13 games, it will be interesting to see what shakes out. What’s best for the organization in the long haul, however, is for them to rip off a 13-game stretch that is lopsided --- one way or the other. Either with a bunch of wins or a bunch of losses. 

That might be the only true way it’s best for the future. Sorta, kinda, somewhat hanging around would, quite possibly, result in a purgatory of sorts. 

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