Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Clint Hurdle’s team was respectable, and in a contending position at the All-Star break. Then the bottom fell out, and the Pirates have looked like Little Leaguers ever since. All that remains now is to see how far they can actually sink.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s almost impossible to define a team based on one play over the course of 162 games, but credit the 2019 Pirates for at least this much: They found a way.

It occurred on Aug. 10 in St, Louis, in the bottom of the sixth inning, in a 1-1 tie.

The Cardinals’ Tommy Edman doubled to the right-center field gap and wound up scoring on what the Cardinals’ TV broadcast described as “the unlikeliest of plays.”

That was understating what had actually taken place.

You had to see it to believe it.

In case you missed it, or need to see it again just to confirm you actually saw what you thought you saw –– assuming anyone was still paying attention by then –– the video can be found on either the Cardinals’ or the Pirates’ website under the heading “Edman’s Little League home run.”​

Edman drives the ball to the wall.

Center fielder Starling Marte fields it on one hop and relays it in to shortstop Kevin Newman, the cutoff man.

Newman turns and hurls the ball to third.

At this juncture, Edman is already retreating back to second base.

Newman throws it, anyway.

Second baseman Adam Frazier, now positioned between Newman and third base, has both of his arms raised (the international signal for “don’t throw it”).

Newman throws it, anyway.

The ball one-hops and eludes third baseman Colin Moran.

And since pitcher Joe Musgrove has neglected to back up third base, the ball eventually skips out of play.​

Edman winds up circling the bases, just the way it used to take place back in Little League.

The Pirates should have walked it off right then and there and saved themselves the rest of the bother of what wound up as a 3-1 loss.

As if on cue, the Pirates were scheduled to play in Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League World Series, just eight days later.

They got clubbed by the Cubs, 7-1, leaving unanswered only the lingering questions as to whether the Pirates might have been able to beat Latin America or Japan.

The Little League Home Run occurred during a beyond-wretched stretch that saw the Pirates lose 29 of 37 games from the resumption of play following the All-Star Break through Wednesday night’s 11-1 loss to the Nationals.

The Pirates had been 44-45 at the break.

The Titanic didn’t sink this fast.

Once a surprising and intriguing contender due, in part, to resiliency, resourcefulness and a dedication to playing until the final out, the Bucs have somehow become a bunch of dead men walking, a team without a detectable pulse.

The Little League Home Run was the most representative but hardly the most glaring betrayal of their demise.

Balls have fallen between outfielders, or simply not been caught.

Rundowns have been botched.

Errant pickoff throws have sailed off target.

There’s a difference between losing baseball and bad baseball.

The Pirates have played the latter for a long enough stretch now that you have to wonder what’s even worth salvaging from the rubble.

“Wash it off” is how manager Clint Hurdle famously used to instruct his players to deal with the type of bad plays, bad games and bad breaks that challenge even the best of teams at some point of a season.

But when it happens almost all the time and there’s seemingly no end in sight, it’s a Herculean task to get clean.

That’s one of the challenges associated with playing Little League baseball.

Getting dirty again the next day is almost preordained.

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section