The Pirates return to Petco Park, where a Padres sweep last August put the collapse in motion.
Fans who keep a close eye on the calendar may notice the Pirates’ August déjà vu.
On Sunday, August 19, 2012, the Pirates won a 19-inning game over the St. Louis Cardinals, then traveled to San Diego. The Padres swept the Bucs and Petco, and Pittsburgh started into a tailspin of 23 losses in 30 games.
On Sunday, August 18, 2013, the Pirates lost a 16-inning game to the Arizona Diamondbacks, then traveled to San Diego. That date might be familiar to you as “yesterday.” Not that the players will place any cosmic significance on this quirk of the schedule. First baseman Garrett Jones merely laughed when he was told about the one-day-off coincidence.
“Didn’t even notice, didn’t even think about that. It’s just one of those things,” Jones said, a veteran of four previous August’s with the Pirates. “We’re not really thinking about that too much. It’s a grind at this part of the season. It’s a grind for everybody. The teams that stay strong, stay healthy, stay focused mentally are gonna be the teams that come out in the end.”
The Pirates have not been strong on the West Coast, going 12-17 over the last two years in AL West and NL West ballparks. Jones can identify specific issues with traveling three time zones in one day, specifically the normally rigorous sleep schedules that get shaken up.
Jones and the Pirates have struggled in the warm California sun the last two years. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
“You wake up at 8 o’clock here, but it’s 11 o’clock at home,” Jones said. “We tend to schedule things, go to bed a little later to balance it out. Minor things to help you through the time change.”
Whatever the Pirates’ bugaboo has been against Western teams, they showed in three-game sweeps at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine and the Colorado Rockies in Denver. Otherwise, the Bucs have been a solid road team this year, going 30-29 in total to be one of only four NL teams above .500 away from home.
One other difference in this California trip from previous years: the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants have not been very good in 2013. The Padres sit 12 games under .500 and the defending World Champion Giants sit last in the NL West with a 55-68 record.
Even coming off a week that saw three extra-innings games go down as losses for the Pirates will not change the attitude conveyed by manager Clint Hurdle.
“We have a team meeting before every series and I’ll take at the maximum three minutes, and I’ll share my thoughts before that series,” Hurdle said. “It could have something to do with the past series, this series, or just us… I haven’t felt the need to address anything specific.”
As for the grind brought by the dog days of August?
“It’s just a matter of having fun, staying loose, staying relaxed, not putting too much pressure on yourselves,” Jones said. “We’re getting to the wire.”
Starling Marte hurt his right hand Sunday, different from the left hand that was hit in Colorado. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Outfielder Starling Marte suffered a right hand contusion during Sunday’s game and is not in Monday’s lineup. There is no timetable for Marte return, as Josh Harrison took the leadoff spot in Game 1 of the San Diego series.
Outfielder Travis Snider (left big toe discomfort) started his first rehab game in Altoona on Monday, playing six innings in Game 1 of the Curve’s doubleheader. He ran, shagged balls and took batting practice with the Pirates before heading to Double-A. ”He’s good to go,” Hurdle said. “He wants to see how good he is to go now.”
Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) threw a bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to throw a simulated game Thursday in San Francisco. The Pirates will try to get Rodriguez up to 40 pitches and include some curveballs after his last live BP session had 30 pitches of fastballs and changeups.
Closer Jason Grilli (right forearm strain) threw from 120 feet Monday. “We’re going to try to make sure we get guys back when they’re ready to come back,” Hurdle said.
Will Grilli or Rodriguez make rehab appearances before the minor-league season ends? “We’d like to get [Rodriguez] in a game situation,” Hurdle said. “That’s the best way to prepare him to come back and to get built up for five innings and around 80 pitches.”