Pittsburgh Pirates Get a Much Needed Win to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer ISeptember 16, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Joel Hanrahan #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after the 9th inning against the  Chicago Cubs  September 15, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

OK Pittsburgh Pirate fans, raise your hands if you thought the Bucs were going to lose yesterday. When the Chicago Cubs were chipping away at what once was a 6-1 lead, admit that the specter of loss No. 72 was there.

And more specifically, when the bases were loaded with two outs and two strikes against Cubs right fielder Dave Sappelt, you envisioned him collecting his third hit of the day, scoring the tying and winning runs.

Instead, Joel Hanrahan struck out Sappelt to preserve a 7-6 Pirates win on September 15th in Wrigley. I confess that I still did not believe it happened until an hour after the game ended.

So the seven-game losing streak is over, but does that mean the Pirates have ended their slide? The team has lost 11 of their last 14 games and squeaking by the second worst team in baseball is not cause to break out the champagne.

But it could be a welcomed relief.

The manner with which the Pirates have lost during this streak has been agonizing. And an extra inning loss in Cincinnati mixed with one-run losses against the Cubs made each night more painful than the last.

Add the teasing element of falling close to .500, and yet the Cardinals slide have shockingly kept the Pirates in the race.

With the dramatic victory by the Dodgers over the Cardinals last night in Chavez Ravine, the Pirates still amazingly are only two games out of a playoff spot with 18 games to play.

Now, had the Pirates won one game against the Cubs last weekend and one against the Reds and went 2-5 in the last stretch instead of 0-7, they would be tied for a playoff spot.

If they only played poorly instead of horribly, they would be approaching late September with their fate in their hands.

The Pirates play their next two games in Chicago. Maybe they have woken up. Andrew McCutchen certainly came back with a vengeance yesterday by reaching base four times, including a homer.

If the Pirates win today against Chris Volstad, then they will remain two games back no matter what happens in Dodger Stadium as the Cardinals and Dodgers battle each other.

And it is time for another show of hands, Pirate fans. If at the beginning of the season I told you that on the morning of September 16, the Pirates would have a winning record and be only two games out of a playoff spot, would you have taken it?

I expect a lot of hands in the air for that question.