The Pirates have regressed in just about every facet in 2010, from pitching to hitting to defense to the overall record, but one of the few upticks came at the gate.
The crowd of 23,208 for the home finale Sunday raised the total attendance at PNC Park to 1,613,399, highest at the stadium since 2007 and the 17th-highest in the franchise's 124-year history. The average crowd of 19,919 was an increase over the 19,479 of last year, and seven games were sellouts.
Although that average crowd is the fourth-smallest in Major League Baseball, it also represented what is expected to be one of the few increases. And the National League, as a whole, is expected to show a decrease.
"In what has been a very disappointing season, Pirates fans have given our players championship-caliber support," team president Frank Coonelly said. "While several clubs in baseball are asking why more fans are not coming to their games, we are fortunate to play in front of vocal, sophisticated and energetic fans who have supported our club through an incredibly trying time."
Coonelly cited two possible explanations.
"First, Pittsburgh is, quite simply, a great baseball town whose love of the Pirates is as deep and rich as the history of this proud organization. Second, our fans finally see a young core of players who care about winning as much as they do and who have the talent to make winning a reality. In return, this young group feeds off our fans' remarkable passion, as reflected in the disparity in our home and road records."
The Pirates finished 40-41 at home but are 15-59 on the road.
"Pirates fans are winners, and they deserve a winner in return," Coonelly continued. "We understand how fortunate we are to have such great support and take seriously our responsibility to deliver that winning team."
The franchise record for attendance was 2,436,139, in PNC's first season, for an average of 30,076.
Chris Resop, one of the Pirates' few effective middle relievers, has tenderness and inflammation in his right elbow that has kept him from pitching since Sept. 16. General manager Neal Huntington said a recent MRI cleared Resop of structural damage and that he is day to day.
Although Resop had success as a starter in Atlanta's system this year, the Pirates will keep him in a bullpen role next year, with Huntington saying Resop will get "strong consideration" for a job.
Huntington repeated that he would like to add starting pitching from the outside, but he called the free-agent pool "incredibly shallow" and added that teams that might be willing to trade starting pitching are going to seek a "king's ransom" because of that free-agent market.
"We're going to look at the right fit," he said. "We're going to look at the free-agent market and, if it's a low-supply, high-demand, that lines itself up for some contracts that we'll look back on as an industry and three or four years and realize they weren't good contracts. If the right guy's out there and we feel comfortable with it, ideally for multiple years, we know we've got some money to be able to do it. But we still have to be able to do it intelligently."
• Outfielder/first baseman John Bowker was out of the lineup for the first time in 11 games because of the sore right knee that forced him from the game Saturday. He said the knee was feeling "better," and tests cleared him to pinch-hit and, possibly, rejoin the lineup tonight in St. Louis.
• Andy LaRoche made his second start of the season at first base, the first coming Aug. 10 in San Diego. He is taking grounders at all infield positions, including shortstop, and he hopes to work on all of them during winter ball in Venezuela.
• Huntington, on the fate of the coaching staff: "We're looking to finish the season strong. As we get to the offseason, we'll put all the pieces together."