Since defeating the Dodgers last Monday to move one game over .500, the Pirates have lost five straight, including getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers on the road again. In those five games, the Pirates have been outscored 32-13. Their offense has been atrocious, scoring five or more runs in only one game during that stretch, while the starting pitchers have amassed one quality start.
That start came from Paul Maholm who pitched six solid innings, but was outdone by Dodgers' starter Hiroki Kuroda who scattered six base runners over seven innings as the Pirates lost 2-0 last Wednesday. That was the closest defeat the Pirates had faced in the past week. They were destroyed 10-3 by the Dodgers in the second game of the series and were dominated, once again, by the Brewers who out scored them 22-10. Milwaukee now owns a record of 33-3 at home against the Pirates since 2007.
Perhaps getting excited about the Pirates' 18-17 record was a bit premature. Over the course of a Major League Baseball season, the talented teams climb their way to the top while the low-level teams find themselves battling in the basement. However, the fact remains that the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates are more talented than last year's squad, who quite frankly was among the worst in baseball history. This team is underachieving immensely at the plate ranking 14th in the National League in batting average. While the pitching was a bright spot in April, it is starting to show its true colors in May.
Lost in the middle of this streak, was the drama circulating Andrew McCutchen and Manager Clint Hurdle. McCutchen was benched for Thursday night's series finale against the Dodgers—which was eventually rained out—for not running out a dropped third strike call. The move may not have affected the outcome of a game, but it certainly sent a message to the Pirates' organization: No one is safe from criticism. Andrew McCutchen is the leader on this team, and the way he conducts himself on and off the field influences the team.
Clint Hurdle was brought in to change the mentality of this team. Pittsburgh has seen the Pirates get swept in Milwaukee; they've experienced long losing streaks in units of games and seasons. Hurdle is supposed to help the team climb out of tough stretches in the season while blocking the 18-year-old Pirates' mantra of "here we go again."
The final two-and-a-half weeks of May will be interesting to follow. Can the Pirates turn their luck around against the Nationals? They certainly could benefit from winning a series in Washington, as it could build their momentum heading into a series against Cincinnati. However, if the Pirates get swept by Washington, we could see this season get out of hand quickly.