If the Pirates want to have their first winning season since 1992, not to mention their first postseason appearance since that same year, they can not afford to lose a series to the Houston Astros at home.
It was not that long ago that the Pirates looked like they were not only cruising to a winning year but had the division title within reach.
On July 8th, they were in first place by themselves. They won nine of eleven games in late July and on August 6th had one of the wild-card spots and were on pace to win 93 games.
Since then the Pirates are 8-18. They come into today's game just six games over .500 with 28 to play.
Yesterday, the Pirates could not beat Edgar Gonzalez, who got his first win as a starter in the bigs since 2008 and was playing in the Mexican league until a few weeks ago. Brett Wallace homered for the Astros.
24-year-old Jeff Locke, who came to the Pirates in the 2009 deal for Nate McClouth made his first start of the year and gave up five runs in five innings as the Bucs dropped their 10th game out of 13.
By a miracle, the Pirates are still in the playoff race. As of this writing they remain two games back in the loss column for a wild-card spot.
But a soft schedule can only torment the Pirates and their fans if they do not take advantage of it. Today Wandy Rodriguez pitches against his former team. It would take only a modest winning streak to get the Pirates back into a wild-card spot.
What better way to start a winning streak than playing the Astros?