After splitting a four game road series against the Atlanta Braves, arguably the third best team in the NL, the Pirates find themselves 1.5 games back from the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central lead. As good as the pitching was to hold down the Braves' offense, the bats for the Pirates were equally as putrid. At one point, the Pirates had scored only two runs in a span of 27 innings off the Braves; hardly the offense of a contender. Still, after a win last night, they head into Philadelphia with a chance to come out of this road trip with their heads above playoff water.
During the games this weekend, there will be plenty of scoreboard watching and plenty of trade rumors floating around. As the Pirates continue to shop for bats and scoreboard watch, there should be a rooting interest for the Oakland Athletics. No, not because the motion picture Moneyball is being released this fall, chronicling the 2001 Athletics who made a playoff run using sabermetrics. But because the A's play the Minnesota Twins and the Twins still believe they are in the hunt to win the AL Central.
Why does that matter?
The Twins currently have two tradable players who are excellent hitters: Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. While it has been rumored that Cuddyer will not be traded at the deadline, the Pirates have been reported as a team showing strong interest for Jason Kubel. At age 29, Kubel is having another solid season, hitting .314/.365/.471 with an OPS of .836. With the uncertainty of Tabata's return and Presley's broken hand, Kubel would help a banged up outfield and upgrade the offense. The only problem is, the Twins are unwilling to part with their players due to their belief that they could win the division. Series wins from Detroit, Cleveland and Oakland could push the Twins back to roughly eight games out of the AL Central which may force their hand in dealing away players or, at the very least, lower the asking price.
Although the struggles continue to be at first base with Lyle Overbay, the Pirates lineup would get a boost from a guy like Kubel who has had 90+ RBI's the last two seasons. Carlos Pena looked to be the perfect rental but his current slump (1-19 11 k's), coupled with the Chicago Cubs refusing to deal him in hopes he will re-sign in the offseason, seems to have turned the Pirates off from the possibility of seeing the slugging first baseman in black and gold. Since Pena would be a rental, I'm not sure why the Cubs couldn't just take the Pirates' money and use it to sign Pena once the season is over. Then again, I never understand anything the Cubs do when it comes to running a franchise. I digress. With the astronomical asking prices to acquire Pence, Quentin or Upton, and lack of impact by Willingham, Kubel or Cuddyer appear to be the best fits.
So say it with me, "Let's go A's." Sure, you can root for the Astros to beat the Brewers (please Houston. One game?), or the Cubs and their useless $125 million payroll to beat the Cardinals. But those series aren't as important as you may think. The Pirates still have ten games remaining against both the Cardinals and Brewers and with the offense continuing to struggle, the Bucs are going to need all the help they can get to score runs. Jason Kubel can help. But first, we need the Twins to fall faster than Lyle Overbay's chances of playing after July 31st. If not, the Pirates will have to go back to the drawing board to find a suitable deal for a bat.
Let's go A's
Friday: A's Gonzalez (9-7 2.67 ERA) vs. Twins Liriano (6-8 4.82 ERA)
Saturday: A's Moscoso (3-5 3.47 ERA) vs. Blackburn (7-7 4.21ERA)
Sunday: A's McCarthy (3-5 3.52 ERA) vs. Pavano (6-7 4.60 ERA