Pirates continue offensive nosedive, face series sweep

I was slightly disgusted and incredibly disappointed last night — and that was before Mike Leake tossed six shutout innings as the winning pitcher in the Reds’ 2-0 victory on Saturday.

No, it wasn’t the 10 stranded runners the Pirates left on base that made me want to bury my head and cover my eyes and nor was it the tight loss to a divisional rival that was disappointing.

Before heading down to PNC Park to watch the game in person (not for the Kool & The Gang post-game concert — I promise), I stopped at my 85-year-old grandpa’s house. And look, I understand it’s been pretty humid these past couple days, but I just wasn’t ready to see my shirtless grandpa sitting on his couch. THAT was more difficult to witness than Andrew McCutchen’s weak pop out with Alex Presley and Neil Walker on the corners and nobody out in the eighth inning.

And more upsetting than wasting Francisco Liriano’s six innings of dominance — due in large part to his reborn wipeout slider and devastating change to right-handed batters — that included 12 strikeouts against just four hits and a walk was Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries.

I searched for about 10 minutes trying to get my first taste of those ruffled, seasoned fries that almost everyone (it seems) is carrying around the stadium. Dodging through a crowd of about 40 percent Pirates fans, 30 percent Reds fans and 30 percent Penguins fans, I finally found where they were sold and got my hands on that $9.75 bucket.

The food wasn’t bad; it just didn’t live up to my expectations. So I sat back in my seat, regretting spending nearly $10 on something that I viewed as a letdown, to watch a game that cost a little more than $10 and that I also viewed as a letdown. My thoughts were affirmed when Liriano and the Bucs surrendered a run on a blown call at first base in the fourth and then allowed the nail-in-the-coffin run on a Joey Votto RBI single in the eighth.

After that second run something hit the woman sitting in front of me in her shoulder. I assumed it was a disgruntled Pirate fan unleashing his frustration.

A mini paper airplane crashed into her lap, and no sooner than 20 seconds later the man she was with snatched it and flung it through the air. His little flick of the wrist sent the paper aircraft soaring down from our upper deck section and nearly landed two levels below, spawning a fad among the nearby fans.

The trio of high school-aged boys who sat next to me began folding their own pieces of paper from the complimentary copy of On Deck and chucking them only to see the planes nosedive just a few rows ahead.

They kept trying and trying to get one to fly as well as the first did, but none did. So the boys tweaked their folding method and changed their throwing motion instead of looking at the external forces.

The initial throw was aided by one the few gusts of wind that rolled through the park last night, and the plane was made of thick scorecard paper rather than the flimsy, glossy magazine pages that went nowhere in the dead air.

And such is the case with the Pirates at the moment.

I explained in my first post that this year is different from the previous two, in which the team faltered down the stretch. Was I enamored with the 19-9 record in May and now expect similar results for the team without considering the external forces?

The Pirates’ pythagorean win percentage for May was .629, which isn’t far off from their actual .679 win percentage. But they thrived against such struggling clubs like the Brewers, Mets, Mariners, Astros and Cubs — teams who were the gust of wind that caused the Pirates to soar at such promising heights.

Now that June has arrived, there won’t be nearly as much of an external boost to make the Bucs look like they’re made of the scorecard paper. Pittsburgh faces the Reds, Braves, Giants, (underachieving) Dodgers and Angels.

The club’s offensive struggles have caused an early nosedive for the month. There’s certainly no reason to jump ship — and I still believe this year is different from prior seasons — but in order for the team to stop looking like magazine paper crashing quickly, the Pirates need to first stave off a sweep today against the Reds. The offense again draws a tough opposing pitcher, but these are the test flights necessary to prove the team’s value.

Game 56: PNC Park, 1:35 p.m.

Lineups:

Reds (35-21)
1. Shin-Soo Choo – CF
2. Zack Cozart – SS
3. Joey Votto – 1B
4. Jay Bruce – RF
5. Todd Frazier – 3B
6. Xavier Paul – LF
7. Devin Mesoraco – C
8. Cesar Izturis (no, really) – SS
9. Mat Latos – P

Pirates (34-22)
1. Alex Presley – RF
2. Starling Marte – LF
3. Neil Walker – 2B
4. Andrew McCutchen – CF
5. Garrett Jones – 1B
6. Russell Martin – C
7. Pedro Alvarez – 3B
8. Jordy Mercer – SS
9. Jeanmar Gomez – P

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By tyle23r

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