Collier: Truth is, it's a disastrous homestand
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So there you have it, officially, the first of its kind this season: The fairly disastrous Pirates homestand.
Six losses in the first nine games, with National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw ready to pounce for the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight.
That this was the season's longest and most pivotal sequence along the North Shore was somehow lost on Clint Hurdle's largely inexperienced pennant racers, who managed to select early-to-mid August as the time to play some of the flattest, most dissonant music of the summer.
Tuesday night, they allowed the opposition to score first for the eighth consecutive game, then allowed 'em to score second, third and fourth as well.
Also fifth, sixth and seventh
And eighth, ninth and 10th.
(All right, look; I've got plenty of numbers, but only five minutes until deadline).
At the moment when Los Angeles was putting the hairspray on this 11-0 spank-a-palooza, the Pirates were staring balefully at their fifth loss in six games, their sixth in eight, their 10th in 16 and at a post-All-Star Game record of a flaccid 16-15.
"Where we finish the homestand is where we finish," Hurdle said in one of his earnest variations on it-is-what-it-is. "Sometimes, you've just got to find a way to dig a little deeper, tie your shoes up a little bit tighter and go from there."
From there, of course, the Pirates might also be able to see their way out of your consciousness, out of not only the National League Central race, but the wild-card picture itself, even as that frame has been expanded this year by 100 percent.
The wild-eyed, wild-card chasing Dodgers have just about run them down, and the Cardinals await them in a weekend series in seething, simmering St. Louis that will test the full depth of this team's mental resilience, should any remain.
"We've got some guys that this is the first time through a new experience," said the manager. "The thing you've got to do, as I've said before, is you got to keep speaking greatness to them and keep coaching them or reminding them. Not so much instructing them, but reminding them of the good sequences, of the positive times. When we have success, what do we do? When we don't have success, what happens? How do we react individually and collectively? There's no better yardstick to learn from this experience, from this vacuum or crucible that you're in right now, to get through it."
It likely would be easier to withstand if the Pirates' poor play weren't suddenly being matched by awful luck. In the fourth inning last night, for example, the Dodgers somehow loaded the bases with three consecutive badly-batted balls that had in common only that none of them left the infield. The first hissed out of Pedro Alvarez's glove at third, the second found Neil Walker's but was dislodged when Matt Kemp collided with the second baseman and the third came dribbling off the bat of Hanley Ramirez, tight-roped the third baseline for all of 45 feet and fainted dead away in fair territory, where no one could resuscitate it.
A three-run inning was underway. At least the Dodgers' Luis Cruz did the Pirates the courtesy of hitting a Kevin Correia pitch hard to left for a two-run single. It would be only the third time in his past 13 starts that the Pirates did not win behind Correia.
A decent start from somebody could turn that kind of luck around, and Wandy Rodriguez will be conspicuously overdue for one when he climbs the mound tonight. But the emotional weight of a 4-7 or 3-8 homestand, now a throbbing possibility, might not be something Hurdle's team can put behind it with any efficiency.
"It can be impactful," Hurdle allowed. "You just go out there with the intent to win the game that day. That' what we've done every game we've played. That's what we did last night. Once you get to the point where the result is, and we finish this homestand, wherever we are -- that's just where we ended up. We gotta focus forward.
"We got to take on the next challenge that comes. Your faith has got to be significant enough that you've got to be able to believe in things that you can't see from time to time. You've got to make sure you're feeling them, you've got to make sure your thoughts are in the proper place. You've got to make sure that you can play this game with a comfortable, controlled aggression late in the season and not go out there afraid to make mistakes, to play not to lose versus playing to win."
Seven weeks remain in a once very-promising 2012 season. It's time for one of the manager's favorite verbs: recalibrate.
First Published August 15, 2012 12:00 am