The Pittsburgh Pirates dropped three out of four games in a crucial series last week at home against the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates were only able to manage a win in the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday and the Cubs had the last laugh the rest of the way. The Cubs dampened the mood even worse when Chris Coghlan slid into second base and took out Jung-Ho Kang on the play, and later found out to be for the entire season. It's times like these that Pirates fans really need to be careful when criticizing Neal Huntington because a lot of the Pirates hopes rest on his body of work. Now let's explain what exactly that means and has to do with Kang's injury.
Huntington's work in re-acquiring Travis Snider along with getting guys like Michael Morse, Aramis Ramirez, and J.A. Happ, has helped the Pirates immensely, especially in times of desperation and need. A lot of worry and panic occurred when two Pirates infielders, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, went down earlier on in 2015. The question was "how could the Pirates survive without them?" And the Pirates answered with Jung-Ho Kang. Now, without Kang available until at least the beginning of next season, those guys that were hurt earlier this year will have to step in and step up. Sounds like a lot to ask for when Kang hit .287 with 15 HR and 58 RBI in just 126 games in his first MLB season.
But is it really? Is it impossible to overcome an injury to a guy like Kang? It's not going to be easy, but even with Kang, the Pirates chances of winning the World Series were not the greatest but they were better than they are now. But that's why Neal Huntington went out at the trade deadline and added depth to the 2015 team he has put together with manager Clint Hurdle. It is not impossible to overcome injuries in baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals would agree with that statement. The Cardinals are baseball's best team, as they have been essentially all year, and they have had numerous injuries to very good pieces on their team. Has it slowed them down? Not one damn bit, and they are well on their way to winning another National League Central division title.
A lot of people were in panic mode whenever Pirates starter A.J. Burnett went down for about a month shortly after the All-Star Break. But J.A. Happ was able to step in and not only fill the shoes of Burnett, but do so in quite an impressive fashion and even pitch far beyond expectations. Happ is 5-2 in eight starts since joining the Pirates to go with an ERA of just 1.96 and an impressive 9.8 SO/9 rate. But Huntington's great moves are not the only thing to hold faith in as the Pirates push into the postseason in hopes of capturing their sixth World Series crown. The Pirates play in the best division in all of baseball and that could prove to be a big help when it comes to playing under pressure in the postseason.
The Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals hold the three best records in the National League. With that being said, the Pirates are not the only team that knows how to play under pressure, as both the Cardinals and Cubs have played in those high-pressure situations as well and that's why they own the three best records in the NL. But unlike the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates have been there before, and for the most part, they have tons of experience up and down their lineup when speaking in terms of playing in the postseason.
Now teams like the Kansas City Royals in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers have also had experience, but they do not play in the best division in baseball. The opposition would say that playing in the best division can hurt in the long haul because those games could wear players down and that is not an unfair or inaccurate assessment. However, playing in those types of games, more often than not, do more good than they do bad to a team. The Pirates responded to their skid against the Cubs in that four-game series by coming back and taking the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on the road. They also pounded the Rockies in the series opener in Colorado on Monday to give them their third win in four games. That's why the Pittsburgh Pirates still have lots of hope as they are set to clinch a postseason berth.