- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
From first to free fall: Pirates suddenly plunge
Over the course of a 162-game season, they rationalized, every club eventually endures a slump, a stretch of poor play, a losing streak.
“We know there’s no reason to panic,” outfielder Garrett Jones said, “because even the best teams have rough patches like this.”
But not one this costly this quickly in major league history.
Leading the NL Central on July 25, the Pirates lost the next day when plate umpire Jerry Meals admittedly made the wrong call in the 19th inning at Atlanta. And by Sunday night, Pittsburgh had lost 10 in a row and suddenly found itself trailing by 10 games.
Never before had a first-place team plunged 10 games back in a 13-day span, STATS LLC said.
“To go from in the hunt to out of the hunt in 10 games like this, it’s bad,” infielder Brandon Wood said after Sunday’s 7-3 loss to San Diego, finishing an 0-7 week at home.
“It’s amazing how quick things can change. But on the other hand, they can change that quick in the other direction as well,” he said.
They had better start heading the other direction soon if the Pirates are to salvage a season that so surprisingly was filled with such promise before the bottom fell out.
A year after losing 105 games for their North American major professional sports record 18th consecutive losing season, these Pirates peaked at 51-44 and were five games over .500 in July for the first time since 1992 when the trouble began with that 4-3 loss to the Braves.
Pittsburgh’s players had woke up that morning knowing they were on a team tied for first place, poised to be buyers at the trading deadline for the first time in 14 years and having had captivated a long-dormant fan base back home.
Less than two weeks later, having acquired Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick to help for a possible playoff push, the Pirates were 54-59 and seemingly spiraling toward yet another sub-.500 campaign. They’d been outscored 82-37 during the 10-game skid and dropped 12 of 13 since peaking.
An embarrassing sweep at the hands of the last-place Padres _ the lowest-scoring team in the NL, they put a team-record 35 runs in a three-game series _ followed sweeps at Philadelphia and at home against the Chicago Cubs.
The sellout crowds that had been drawn in by the strong play of the Pirates in June and the first three weeks of July were booing during losses of 15-5 and 13-2 on Friday and Saturday.
“If you’ve ever been involved in sports at any level, you’ve been involved in a situation where you don’t win,” Hurdle said. “At the major league level, this is the life we’ve all chosen, so you understand what comes with it, whether it be public scrutiny, whether it be fan displeasure. When you do well, people cheer. When you don’t do well, people can boo. That’s always part of it.”
The 1981 Minnesota Twins and the 1884 Detroit Wolverines are the only two other teams in big league history to drop from first place to 10 games back in the standings in a two-week span, each doing it in 14 days. But there’s a caveat with them: They were 0-0 at the time, so their designation of being first-place team when the collapse began might come with an asterisk.
The 1994 Milwaukee Brewers are the only other team since 1930 to endure an in-season free fall from first to a double-digit deficit in 15 days of less.
“There’s going to be problems and there’s going to be challenges and adversity and losing streaks,” Hurdle said. “And along the way, now how you get through those as an organization and as a team is what can define you and actually make you better in the long run.”
It isn’t getting any easier for the Pirates, who are 0-7 since getting Lee and Ludwick. Next up are games at San Francisco and at the division-leading Brewers, whose 11-1 run has coincided with the Pirates‘ skid and has been equally responsible for Pittsburgh’s historic rapid drop in the standings.
Looking like a shoo-in for NL manager of the year just mere days ago, Hurdle is facing his first true crisis in a season in which it seemed he could do no wrong through almost four months.
In recent days, Hurdle has publicly come off as more jovial than even when things were going well. In his dealings with the media, the sometimes-fiery former Rockies skipper has put on the proverbial happy face and kept a calm, measured demeanor while preaching a don’t-panic, stay-the-course approach.
The players appear to be buying in. They emerged from a players-only meeting following Saturday’s game talking about how they pledged to stick together.
“We have a group of guys here that’s pretty special, and we all kind of have each other’s backs,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier to go through, there’s no doubt about that.”
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- EDITORIAL: As jobs vanish, Obama wants more of same
- Stolen European passports on Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777
- Obama engages in Ukraine diplomacy from Fla. resort as Russia digs in
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- PRUDEN: Likening Putin to Hitler on Ukraine shows Hillary's shaky grasp of history
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again