Pittsburgh’s collapse gets an exclamation point with no-no

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The Pirates appeared to hit rock bottom on Wednesday, when they were shutout primarily by a pitcher they gave up on waivers to the Mets prior to the start of the season (Jeremy Hefner pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, before rookie Jeurys Familia finished up). As it turned out, that was still just a warmup.

On Friday evening, the Pirates were no-hit by a guy named Homer. A guy who had one career shutout in 109 major league starts. And you’ll never guess who that had come against. In fact, both of Homer Bailey’s complete games had come versus the Pirates. He’s now 8-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 starts against the Pirates and 30-31 with a 4.81 ERA in 98 starts against everyone else.

The loss was the Pirates’ 81st of the season, which guarantees they won’t snap their record skid with a winning season. They could still conceivably win five straight and finish at .500 for the first time in 20 years. But, let’s face it, that’s not happening. The Pirates are 6-20 in September after going 11-17 in August.

As for Bailey, he deserves plenty of credit. He fanned 10 and faced one batter over the minimum. His postseason rotation spot was still in doubt as of a couple of weeks ago, but he had moved well ahead of Mike Leake of late even before tonight’s showing. He’s taken advantage of a very weak schedule of late, but 13-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 204 innings is nothing to sneeze at. His no-hitter tonight was the Reds’ first since Tom Browning threw a perfect game in 1988. Incredibly, it was the first no-hitter versus the Pirates since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson threw one in 1971.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”