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Mark Madden

FRUSTRATION

 
FRUSTRATION

What a frustrating series the Pirates played vs. Cincinnati.
 
The Pirates needed to win twice or sweep. Now, as they go on the road for the regular season’s final six games, it seems likely they will finish third in the NL Central, get the second wild card, and face a one-game playoff at Cincinnati.
 
So much better was possible.
 
Friday was inexcusable. The Pirates were ahead 5-2. Cincinnati hit OF Andrew McCutchen, as usual. The Pirates wilted, as usual. The Reds rallied when SS Jordy Mercer choked up a fatal dose of Keystone Kops-style erring in the ninth. Pirates lose, 6-5. That loss will prove consequential.
 
The Reds bully the Pirates. It’s more mental than physical. But the Reds constantly plunk McCutchen, and there’s no retaliation. Even if the Pirates aren’t intimidated, the Reds are certainly emboldened. It’s intentional and systematic.
 
That’s why the Reds would be my pick in a one-game playoff regardless of site.
 
The ninth-inning error by Mercer = BAD LITTLE LEAGUE. Simple ground ball, throw it into the stands. Had Mercer sat on the ground and cried, it would not have looked out of place. Mercer couldn’t handle the pressure.
 
Mark Melancon couldn’t handle the pressure, either. Friday should be Melancon’s last failure as closer. Jason Grilli has a fastball, and Grilli has SACK.
 
A.J. Burnett, of course, won on Saturday. He has SACK, too.
 
Then, in the series finale, Jeff Locke blew up. That should be Locke’s last start. He should not get a spot on the playoff roster. Why did he even pitch yesterday?
 
The Pirates are 38-37 since July 1. Right now, they’re a mediocre baseball team. Right now, they’re a rattled baseball team. That doesn’t bode well.
 
It’s good that the Pirates’ Stolmy Pimentel threw at Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips yesterday. Games between the Pirates and Reds are tense, and there are three more (perhaps four) left. I’m glad the Pirates are finally creating some of the tension.


Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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