The Indians will be back in town tonight, and they’ve brought some guests for the weekend: the Pittsburgh Pirates, with whom they’ll play a three-game weekend series. This is the first time we’ll see the Pirates this year (and last, unless we somehow meet in the World Series), so I got Bucs Dugout‘s Charlie Wilmoth to give his thoughts on Pittsburgh’s playoff surprising start, Andrew McCutchen‘s stardom, and the most terrifying series prediction we’ve ever seen.
- Entering Thursday the Pirates are 32-29 and just two games back in the NL Central. Did you expect them to contend this year or has this been a total shock?
It’s not a total shock in that strange things can happen in a 60-game sample size, but no, I didn’t expect them to contend, and I don’t think that calling this team a contender really passes the common-sense test.
Andrew McCutchen has taken his game to a new level this year. How good do you expect him to be in his prime?
I think he’s already in his prime. If he can get any better than this, he’s going to win MVP awards, probably several of them.
- Per wRC+, every Pittsburgh player not named McCutchen has been a below-average hitter this year. Do you expect the Pirates to bring in a big bat before the trade deadline?
How big is “big”? I hope they’ll bring in a low-cost, AAAA-type hitter to help their pitiful offense, but so far they haven’t done that. Even after four extremely expensive drafts, they don’t really have the minor-league depth you’d like to see before they try a really big trade for a hitter. If they stay in contention, I could see them making moves like they did last season, acquiring Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick for very little. However, I don’t think they’re all that likely to stay in contention, so all this might be moot.
- Who’s pitching for the Pirates this weekend and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
James McDonald and A.J. Burnett have been the Pirates’ best starting pitchers this year; Burnett has benefited from moving to Yankee Stadium and the AL East to PNC Park and the NL Central, while McDonald’s breakout has been fueled by his slider and curveball, both of which are very tough pitches. Brad Lincoln has pitched very well out of the bullpen this year and is better-suited to remain in the ‘pen, where he’s free to let it rip and throw in the mid-90s. He has good breaking stuff, but as a starter, his fastball is mediocre, and he doesn’t throw his changeup much.
- What’s your prediction for the series?
A plague of killer locusts, probably followed by the end of the world. But if fate can keep these events at bay until Sunday evening, three baseball games will be played, after which fans of one of the two mediocre teams playing them will have a misguided sense of confidence about their team’s playoff chances. The divisions in which these two teams play will remain well below average, but the two teams will still not be good enough in the long term to keep pace with divisional rivals to the west, let alone to withstand long and painful deaths by tens of thousands of tiny locust bites. Nonetheless, fathers and sons will attend the games and awkwardly attempt to bond, and sons will try and fail to find meaningful ways of telling their fathers that they love them, and broadcast crews associated with both teams will show footage of young men holding up signs reading, “THANKS DAD,” in big block letters. Perhaps the broadcast crews will do so cynically, or perhaps they will do so because they are vapid. But in the end, the universe will not care, for the end is nigh, and the cardboard upon which these signs are written will merely become fuel for millions of deranged insects. Cleveland, I shall miss your Pere Ubu, your burning river, your faecally-themed football team. Au revoir.