Pittsburgh Pirates Manager: “We Needed to Win More Games”

For most fans, that’s a bit of an understatement. Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Braves on Wednesday came too late to put the final nail in the coffin of the Pirates’ 2012 season (that came in a disastrous August and September), but it still set the somber mood in Pittsburgh that has defined Pirates postseasons for the past 20 years. Wednesday marked the 20th season that the Pirates have finished under .500.

Not all Pirates are ready to mark the season off as a loss and hope for better days next season. Breakout star Andrew McCutchen contributed a single hit in the Pirates’ finale against the Braves, which gave him a .327 average on the year. According to McCutchen, you need to “take some positives from it… …Every year is tough.” This year left a sour taste in fans’ mouths, as the Pirates blew a tremendous summer performance with a disastrous collapse in the Fall. While Pittsburgh Pirates tickets will continue to sell well to the always loyal fan base, many are wondering when the Pirates will lift themselves out of their two-decade long slump and once again become a late-season contender.

Taking a page from McCutchen’s book, what were some of the positives we can draw from the Pirates’ 2012 campaign? For one thing, Pittsburgh won more games in the past season than they have since 1997. And speaking of McCutchen, there’s nothing to indicate that the young center fielder, who rocketed the Pirates to early success, won’t be a MVP candidate next season. Pittsburgh wanted to play some solid hitters this year — which they had in McCutchen, Neil Walker, Garrett Jones, and Pedro Alvarez. They also showcased solid pitching in James McDonald and A.J. Burnett.

While many fans are calling for the dismissal of Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle, it’s important to reflect on the Pirates’ progress this season, even if the collapse is still too fresh a wound. And until next season, HeadlineTickets.com will remain your number one online retailer for all Pittsburgh Pirates tickets, hoping for the streak-ending season that finally give our Bucs a winning season.

McCutchen’s Case for NL MVP

McCutchen’s Case for NL MVP

The Pirates are still within striking distance of the second National League wild card spot with just a couple weeks left in the regular season, and have a great shot at securing the team’s first winning season in two decades. While fans with Pittsburgh Pirates tickets hold out hope for a rally into the playoffs, the season is still a successful one by almost any measure, and the source of a great deal of that success is Andrew McCutchen, who has become one of the best players in the MLB. The question is, do his numbers this year make him MVP worthy?

McCutchen has made noticeable improvement in each of his four seasons with the Pirates, and the biggest stride he made in 2012 was becoming an effective average hitter, seeing his BA climb as high as .373 in the beginning of August. While that has dropped off a little in the last two months, he is still well above the .300 mark and is one of the main contenders for the NL batting title. McCutchen also increased his home run production from previous years, and is one pace to reach 30 homers on the season. Perhaps most impressively, his current on-base percentage of .410 is second in all of baseball. By most metrics, McCutchen’s statistics place him among the most valuable players in all of baseball, and the fact that he has kept Pittsburgh in the playoff hunt for so long is a testament to his importance to his franchise.

McCutchen’s success at the plate seemed to dictate his team’s success as well, as the Pirates were at their best when McCutchen was at the top of his game, and this may be the only reason he does not walk away with the NL MVP award in the offseason. C Buster Posey is a hitting machine for the San Francisco Giants, who own a sizeable lead in the NL West, and voters tend to favor players from the teams with the best records. Other contenders for MVP include Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina and Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun, who each have offensive stats comparable to McCutchen. And while neither the Cardinals or Brewers are locked into playoffs spots, their teams have been hotter down the stretch, while McCutchen and the Pirates have cooled off considerably since a torrid June and July. In terms of the MVP race, it is always better to start slowly and finish in impressive fashion than the other way around. Regardless of how the vote turns out, McCutchen has already turned in a season for the ages, and he still has a couple weeks to pad his resume further.

Reds Eek Out Win Over Pirates To Complete Sweep

Reds Eek Out Win Over Pirates To Complete Sweep

The bad news continued for Pittsburgh Pirates fans Wednesday night as the Cincinnati Reds edged out a 2-1 win over the Bucs, completing the series sweep and bringing the recent Pirates losing streak to a disappointing six games. A.J. Burnett suffered the loss, his first against the Reds in 2012. The attitude on Wednesday was far different than previous games, with both teams remarking that the game felt like a “battle” the whole nine innings. While many Pirates fans were quick to dismiss accusations that the team was headed for their 20th consecutive losing season last month, the most recent in a string of defeats has many wondering if the Pirates are just building up the suspense. But a late season collapse certainly isn’t unprecedented, with the Bucs burying a July 53-47 record last season with a 19-43 finish.

The two series sweeps also come with more bad news — Pittsburgh Pirates tickets aren’t selling well. According to ESPN.com, the Pirates currently rank 21st in the MLB for average attendance at home. While it’s hard to ignore how much more fan support the Pirates enjoy now when compared to PNC Park’s opening in 2001, the Bucs need fan support now more than ever.

The Pirates aren’t destined for a losing finish yet, but have a sizable challenge ahead of them. In order to finish the season with a winning record, Pittsburgh will need a 9-12 record over the next 21 games. Since early August, the Bucs have completely reversed their Wild Card contention, going from 2 1/2 games up to 2 1/2 games down. The Pirates have work to do to reverse their slump this season — both in pitching which has logged a 4.43 ERA in the past 31 games and batting, hitting from .237 to .367 in the same period. The second Wild Card slot isn’t out of reach yet, but Pittsburgh will need to reverse their fortunes beginning with Friday’s afternoon game against the Cubs.

Pirates Overcome Astros to End 4-Game Losing Streak

Pirates Overcome Astros to End 4-Game Losing Streak

Should the Pirates go on to recapture their hopes of this year’s second Wild Card slot, Pittsburgh fans will have Andrew McCutchen to thank. Facing a long late-season losing streak and watching Division championship hopes fade away, the center fielder drove in three runs off four hits (his sixth four-hit game of the season, leading the MLB) to deliver half of the Pirates total runs. They went on to finish the game, 6-2. Also contributing to Pittsburgh’s defense was Wandy Rodriguez, who shutout the Astros over seven innings, allowing just four hits.

The Astros struggled with offensive production, and pitcher Jordan Lyles gave up four earned runs in just under five innings, which ultimately put the game out of reach. Two runs came late on an error when Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Tyler Greene ran into each other trying to catch what would otherwise have been an easy fly ball. The ball slid just off the tip of Greene’s glove after the collision and two runs came in for the Pirates.

The Pirates have suffered through a slump lately, losing ten of their last 13 games. Their 5-1 loss to the Astros on Monday only increased doubts as to the Pirates’ contention for a Wild Card slot. But much of this slump can be credited to McCutchen’s recent lack of productivity. As McCutchen has improved, so too have the Pirates. If this is a sign that the center fielder is lifting out of his recent struggles, the Pirates could look down the rest of the month with plenty of wins.

Depending on how tonight’s final game in the Houston Astros series goes, the Pirates could be looking down a long tunnel with a small dot of light at the end, their playoff hopes. Pittsburgh Pirates tickets are still available for tonight’s game at 7:05 ET at PNC Park.

Pirates’ Alvarez Named NL Player of the Week

Pirates’ Alvarez Named NL Player of the Week

While the Pirates dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot in a crushing 5-1 loss to Houston, there is reason for at least one Pirate to be optimistic this week. MLB Network announced today that Pedro Alvarez, third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is the National League Player of the Week for the week ending on September 2nd.

Alvarez was one of the big reasons the Pirates didn’t fall further out of contention for the playoffs last week. In only six games, he accumulated four homers (tying him for the MLB lead) and batted a third-ranked .458. Alvarez also managed a .500 on-base percentage and eight RBIs. On August 28th, Alvarez also struck two home runs in a game against the Cardinals, which gave him five career home runs, tying with Aramis Ramirez and Richie Hebner for most career multi-homer games as a third baseman.

Alvarez was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2008 MLB Draft, and sent to the Lynchburg Hillcats High-A affiliate before moving on to the Double-A team, the Altoona Curve. He was a standout hitter from the very beginning, leading the Pirates organization in both RBIs and home runs. Alvarez was quickly called up to the majors, but struggled initially with a strikeout in all of his first ten games. In response, the Pirates manager John Russell benched him for a day. Following the break, Alvarez returned to play with a huge hitting streak from late June to early July 2010. During this streak, Alvarez managed a pair of home runs, three runs scored, and four RBIs.

Alvarez and the Pirates will continue their series against the Houston Astros tonight before continuing to play the Chicago Cubs on Friday, September 7th. Pittsburgh Pirates tickets are available for all remaining games in the regular season at HeadlineTickets.com.

Pirates Dominate Cardinals in Season Comeback

Pirates Dominate Cardinals in Season Comeback

While some might have been tempted to count the Pirates out in the Wild Card race after devastating series against the Brewers and Padres, the Bucs answered back with a dominant series against the Cardinals. Over three games, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost one by a single run and locked in two shutouts for a 2-1 finish on the series. Next, the Pirates look to exact revenge against the Brewers tonight and end the month on a great note.

During Wednesday’s 5-0 victory against the Cardinals, the Pirates built off fantastic play from third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who blasted his 26th homer this year and drove in a crucial three runs to put the game well out of reach of Cardinal batters. Alvarez’s home run also shot him to seven homers and 23 RBIs in the past 15 games against the defending MLB champions. Not since Barry Bonds roamed the Three Rivers Stadium outfield have the Pirates shown more resilience and follow-through in a season. With a solid performance in September, Pittsburgh has a chance at their first playoff berth, and indeed first winning season, in nearly 20 years.

The best news coming from the Cardinals series is that the Pirates now lead St. Louis 8-7. Should the Cardinals and Pirates end the season tied for a Wild Card slot, the tie-breaking game will be played in Pittsburgh. But don’t be too quick to buy Pittsburgh Pirates tickets for the World Series, as there’s still five weeks left in regular season play. But Pirates fans hope that their squad will be able to use the momentum earned in late August to secure solid wins for the remainder of the season. The Pirates have their sights set on the playoffs, and you can be sure that the Brewers will have whole new challenges ahead of them heading into the clubs’ final series together.

Bedard, Pirates Struggle Against Brewers

Things were looking bright for the Pirates after a shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. But things took a turn for the worst when the Brewers answered back Sunday, shattering the Bucs 7-0. While starting pitcher Erik Bedard looked strong out the gate, keeping the scoreboard blank for the first three innings, the Pirates’ defense came apart in the fourth inning and the Brewers took advantage of every scoring chance served up to them. When the dust settled, the Pirates were left the victims of a 0-7 shutout, and dropped another position for the second Wild Card slot this year.

Bedard certainly can’t take all of the blame for last night’s loss — a weak offense also put the game out of reach. While the Brewers excelled at capitalizing on two-out situations, the Pirates simply lost steam every inning, and left stranded runners on base.

Milwaukee right-handed pitcher Mark Rogers completely dismantled the Pirates’ batting rotation, a rotation full of lefties. In fact, the Pirates produced only three hits in the five innings that Rogers pitched, and they had no better luck against Rogers’ relievers. One of the big problems that the Pirates have been having against teams was evident last night. Just like in 22 of the last 27 games, the team playing the Pirates scored the first run and once again, the Pirates were forced to play from behind. Brewers Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy got on base in the fourth inning for Carlos Gomez, who promptly homered, his 13th this year.

The most recent loss leaves the Pirates still seeking two consecutive home game victories, a feat they haven’t accomplished in the past five weeks. The Bucs go on to play the St. Louis Cardinals tonight at 7:05 ET. Buy Pittsburgh Pirates tickets now to see if the Pirates can get through a tough month and shut down the Cardinals in Pittsburgh.

Pirates Slump Continues: Why Pittsburgh Will Bounce Back

After finishing the winless series against the Padres and suffering huge setbacks this month, it might be easy to count the Pirates out for Wild-Card contention. In the last ten games, the Pirates have only managed to win three, and their most recent loss pushes them out of the lead spot for the second Wild Card this year. But a closer look at the Pirates as they appeared in August reveals much more about the recent Pittsburgh slump, and may show some signs that the Pirates are far from ready to give up the battle for the postseason.

One important factor is the recent Pirates schedule, as you’ve likely noticed with the huge volume of Pittsburgh Pirates tickets available this month. With exception to yesterday’s break, the Pirates had played 20 games in just 20 days. Not only has this schedule wreaked havoc on the team in the win column, but it has been detrimental to the Pirates bench. Neil Walker, Travis Snider, and Starling Marte have all been forced to take breaks to recover from injuries. This stretch also featured a 19-inning game against St. Louis. As the schedule gets lighter, the Pirates should get the rest they need to bounce back.

Both the starting pitching rotation and early offense have also slumped during August. This has contributed to a frequent need for the Pirates to play from behind in almost every game following only a couple of innings. But coach Clint Hurdle is getting some of the blame, especially following a questionable decision to bring Chad Qualls out of the bullpen in a disastrous eighth inning against the Padres.

While there are certainly issues with the Pirates in August, similar problems are plaguing teams around the league, and a lighter schedule in the final quarter of the season should give starting pitchers the rest they need (and perhaps give Andrew McCutchen the chance to show fans why he deserves his NL MVP candidacy).

Pirates Continue Struggle With Padres After 5-7 Loss

After a miraculous comeback at the bottom the the ninth to tie the game, it looked like the Pirates had all the momentum to go to extra innings. But Chase Headley of the Padres had his own contribution to make to the game last night. His two-run walk off homer at the bottom of the 10th capitalized on the Pirates’ failure to convert any runs at the top of the inning, and left the Bucs with a 0-2 record against the Padres this series. Following last night’s loss, the Pirates also dropped to 7.5 games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central Division. This also leaves Pittsburgh only a half game ahead of St. Louis and Los Angeles for the second wild-card position.

Despite the Padres leading off with a powerful two-run first inning, the Pirates finally took their only lead of the game in the sixth, only to see it vanish when San Diego took their turn at bat. The seventh and eighth innings belonged solely to the Padres, who left the Pirates grasping for a last-minute chance to go to extra innings in the ninth. First baseman Garrett Jones led the Pirates in batting, earning two runs on a trio of hits. But Jones also earned the only fielding error for the Pirates when he misplayed a grounder.

A.J. Burnett pitched a relatively solid game, despite the scoreboard telling a different story. In 6.1 innings pitched, Burnett tallied seven strikeouts and earned a 3.63 ERA with 12 hits and four runs. Reliever Daniel McCutchen, instead, earned the loss for the game after giving up a walk-off homer to Headley.

The Pirates face off once again against the Padres tonight, hoping to salvage one game from the series and stay in contention for the second wild-card slot this year. Pittsburgh Pirates tickets are available at HeadlineTickets.com for tonight’s game and the Pirates’ next series against the Brewers.

Ejections and Controversy Mar Pirates Comeback Victory Against Dodgers

Had the Dodgers held on last night, they would have secured the perfect cap to their winning streak. Fortunately for Pirates fans, the Dodgers suffered a complete disciplinary collapse in their final game against Pittsburgh this series, losing 10-6. Pittsburgh Pirates tickets are now on sale for the Pirates’ upcoming games against the Brewers and Cardinals, but last night’s game is the last time the Pirates and Dodgers will face off during the regular season.

Trouble began for the Dodgers when Matt Kemp was struck out to end the first inning. While the Dodgers argued about the strike calls with home plate umpire Angel Campos, Campos issued a warning to the team. At the top of the second, Campos ejected Kemp, a move that prompted Dodgers coach Don Mattingly to confront Campos, earning his own ejection. Although this was the first ejection for Kemp, Mattingly has now been ejected a six times this season. Although many considered the ejections unfair, Kemp was far from “under control” as his defenders claim, evidenced by the need to restrain the player multiple times during the encounter and leading up to Mattingly’s ejection.

The Mattingly/Kemp ejection was far from the only drama experienced by Dodgers in last night’s game, as Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett also had a confrontation with Dodgers batter Hanley Ramirez that resulted in a warning from Campos. Ramirez had homered earlier in the game, and had “gestured” at Burnett as he rounded second. But after Burnett celebrated striking out Ramirez in the sixth, Ramirez threw his bat on the ground in disgust and earned a reprimand from Campos.

The recent breakdown by the Dodgers ended a nine-game winning streak they had previously enjoyed against the Pirates. The Dodgers go on to face the Braves in Atlanta, while the Pirates begin their series against the Cardinals tonight.

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