Pirates, week 1: Signs of optimism for future despite bad start to season

April 7: loss, at St. Louis, 9-0
April 9: loss, at St. Louis, 6-2
Week Record: 0-2
Season Record: 0-2

The Pirates opened their season against the St. Louis Cardinals and started their season out with a bang, losing 9-0 on Thursday and 6-2 on Saturday. It was Pittsburgh’s worst Opening Day showing in at least the past 50 years. Yet despite their horrendous performance, there were some indications that the Pirates might have some reason to hope in the future.

To clarify: the “future” is not this season. This year’s Pirates are going to be bad, and there is the chance that they are going to be very, very bad. They won’t get near .500. They’ll probably lose 90 games, and there’s a very real possibility that they lose 100. In all likelihood, Pittsburgh will finish dead last in the division; they may even finish last in the league.

That being said, we shouldn’t expect the Pirates to lose by nine every game like they did in their showing on Thursday; their luck was egregious. The Cardinals’ first run got on base only because of a gust of wind that turned a routine fly ball to shallow left field into a double; of the three St. Louis home runs that followed, one bounced off the top of the wall and one dropped into the very first row of seats past it. In the end, the Cardinals managed eight hits to the Pirates’ six. The Pirates deserved to lose this game, but it wasn’t quite as bad as the scoreline indicated.

Saturday was another heartbreaker. Watching the game and even looking back at the box score, it isn’t immediately evident why the Pirates lost. The pitching staff allowed ten hits, but the offense produced nine of their own. St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas was chased from the game midway through the fourth inning after throwing an astounding 77 pitches, but the Pirates pulled starter and potential breakout player Mitch Keller after just four, too. Pittsburgh’s fielding was characteristically terrible (Cole Tucker dropped a fly ball that was dubiously scored as a double), but the main issue was that when it mattered, when there were men on second or third, the Cardinals came through, and the Pirates choked.

There were some gems hidden in the Pirates’ terrible start. Wil Crowe came in from the bullpen to relieve JT Brubaker in the fourth, and recorded two hitless innings before being pulled. Yoshi Tsutsugo went two-for-three at the plate on Thursday, two-for-four on Saturday, and knocked in a pair of runs. Ke’Bryan Hayes, a candidate for a Gold Glove at third base this season, made a nice play to catch a sliding runner at the plate, scored a run purely on scrappy baserunning, and notched two hits of his own.

But overall, it was a rough start to the season for a Pirates fan. This team will win games, but it’ll lose a lot more. It’s April. The season almost surely ends, for this ballclub, in September. Hopefully next week we’ll have some wins to write about, but buckle up — it’s going to be a long year.