By picking a particular date or number of games for a team or a date or number of at bats for a player, and using only those specific numbers, it's relatively easy to paint what ever kind of picture you might want.
For example, to prove how well the Pirates have played during the second half of the season, it might be pointed out that from July 28 through Aug. 8 they were 9-2.
But those number in no way mirror the facts.
Let's face it: The Pirates are not the same team they were in going 50-30 -- a 101-win pace -- in their first 80 games.
With their 4-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers last night, the Pirates are 27-26 since going 50-30 through June 29. Since the end of July they are 12-14. Since going a season-high six games over .500 at 70-44, they are 7-12.
This is not good.
Anything can happen. The Pirates might go on another 9-2 run beginning with their crucial three-game series tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. But based on what we've seen for the past two months that's probably not going to happen.
The Pirates remain a good team. They're just not as good today as they were through most of the first three months of the season. The pitching has declined, the hitting hasn't improve enough to pick up the slack.
Gerrit Cole had a rough first four innings last night, allowing seven hits and three runs. He was strong in the fifth, sixth and seventh, but it was too late. The Pirates could not solve Yovani Gallardo and the Milwaukee bullpen.
A win would have moved the Pirates into a first-place tie with the Cardinals. Instead they enter the series tonight a game behind.
None of this is to suggest all is lost. It's not. Both the Cardinals and third-place Cincinnati Reds are capable of playing poor baseball for a long stretch. And the Pirates are capable of getting hot. A division title is a possibility.
It's easy to get optimistic and excited when the Pirates win and pessimistic and disappointed when they lose. What's hard to do is be realistic and level-headed about them.
This is an attempt to do that. The Pirates need to get better -- and soon.
I am en route to my annual late-August/early September vacation on the shores of the Atlantic. Which means the blog, too, takes its annual semi-vacation. I will be posting articles, just not as often.
First Published August 30, 2013 4:00 AM