The Pirates string of losing seasons is over — now what?

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They still need one more win for their first winning season since 1992, but that’s inevitable. The Pirates did, however, put and end to their streak of losing seasons last night, notching their 81st win.

At this point it’s probably worth noting that when the Pirates completed their last winning season, “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” Cheers,” “Designing Women” and “Coach” were top TV shows, Boyz II Men, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Kriss Kross had the biggest hits in the nation and this 40 year-old man was still living in a college dorm. Some of you were not even born. It’s been a long time.

The question now: what constitutes the next step of success for the Pirates? Or, rather, what will render this breakthrough season a disappointment?

If they fail to win the division and only get the wild card, is that bad, or are Pirates fans happy? What if they lose the wild card game? More broadly speaking, was .500 always a goal for you, Pirates fans, and the rest gravy, or are you living in the moment and the moment alone, desiring a long playoff run and anticipating disappointment if that does not come to pass?

Kind of an abstract question, I guess. I’m thinking back to 1991 when the Braves broke through after close to a decade of stinking (and nothing but stinking in the time I had been watching and cheering for them). I recall feeling a lot of “happy to be here” feelings as the season wore down and the playoffs sank in as reality. But I also remember all of that happy to be here stuff disappearing as soon as the NLCS actually began and things got real. Of course I still sting over the World Series, which was one deke and baserunning gaffe away from a Braves success. If you can’t be unequivocally happy being that close to winning it all you aren’t treating your team’s surprise success any differently than fans of teams with a long rich recent history of the stuff.

I feel like most Pirates fans will feel the same way. Maybe some high fives and victory laps this week and into next, but then the serious business of winning the division and making a run in October will take precedence. Lack of success in this regard will thus be felt just as strongly by you as it will be by Cardinals or Red Sox fans who have had all kinds of success in recent years.

But tell me if I’m wrong.

Everyone has to scrape themselves up off the mat for another night of LCS action

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The way I see it, the Red Sox are the only team who should be feeling super chipper today.

The Astros got pasted last night, and it didn’t help that they also found themselves in an off-the-field controversy. Like, a few feet off the field, where maybe they shouldn’t have been controversy. That has to be deflating as all get-out.

The Brewers have to feel like garbage, not only because they lost, but because it took 13 innings to do it, stretching their already patchwork pitching approach, made all the more depressing by the loss of Gio Gonzalez to injury. No, he wouldn’t have pitched tonight anyway, and yes, they get a fresh arm to replace him on the roster, but (a) no one wants a teammate injured; and (b) the arm is, by definition, one Craig Counsell didn’t want to pitch in the LCS in the first place.

The Dodgers are in a much happier state given that that they won, but they gotta be pretty exhausted too given the length and intensity of last night’s game. Plus everyone is now going to have to walk into the clubhouse today and answer questions about their dirty-playing superstar, and if ballplayers hate anything, they hate having to answer questions about their teammates’ missteps.

Still, I suppose it all beats being at home with the other 26 baseball teams, so their misery is relative.

Your viewing guide:

NLCS Game 5

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 5:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Wade Miley vs. Clayton Kershaw
Breakdown:

Wake up, guys. Not only did you play until the wee hours last night, but you have a day game today, starting just after 2PM local time. I suppose we’ll have plenty of time to shoot the schedule maker later — really, why would you give a west coast content a day-game-after-a-night-game treatment? — but for now you gotta pound some java and suck it up.

Clayton Kershaw is gonna have to suck it up, that’s for sure. He had a rough outing in Game 1 at Miller Park, allowing five runs — four earned — on six hits and two walks while striking out just two. Dave Roberts had to use eight relievers last night, including Kenley Jansen for two innings, so Kershaw cannot afford to be sitting at 50 some laboring pitches three innings into this bad boy. He’s gonna have to put on his 2009-17 big boy pants and be an ace.

For Milwaukee it’s Miley, who was excellent in Game 2 but who goes on three days rest here. Craig Counsell used six relievers last night, including Josh Hader, who I would guess is not available today. He does, however, have Brandon Woodruff, who has been excellent thus far.

Mostly, though both of these offenses need to wake up. The Brewers went scoreless over the final eight innings last night. The Dodgers have scored only three runs the 22 innings of play at Dodger Stadium thus far.

 

ALCS Game 4

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:39 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Rick Porcello vs. Charlie Morton
Breakdown:

Charlie Morton will make his first start of the postseason. Indeed, it will be his first action of any kind since September 30, when he went only three innings in a game-162 tuneup against the Orioles. That’s a long dang time to be off the field, but given that he only tossed 15 innings in four starts in the entire final month of the season due right shoulder discomfort, maybe the layoff did him well. We’ll see tonight how he responds to it. Porcello, meanwhile, has been pretty busy, both starting and coming out of Alex Cora’s bullpen. The pattern worked for him nicely in the ALDS, so why not continue it.

Not that anyone cares about this sort of thing other than we story writers, but it’ll definitely be a thing of the Astros can’t get up off the mat after last night’s loss. If those two hit batsmen followed by the grand slam surrendered by Roberto Osuna turns out to have been the turning point of the postseason and the moment when the Astros year, effectively, ended. Baseball is a team effort of course, and there is still much of it to be played here, but if that broke the Astros for 2018 — if Roberto Osuna’s shortcomings prove to have been too much to overcome — it’ll be hard to escape the takes.