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Friday (The poor Pirates and the surging Orioles) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball Updated: September 14, 2012 - 9:59 AM

The Orioles won again yesterday -- and again in crazy fashion with their 13th consecutive extra-innings victory. They are tied for the AL East lead with the Yankees despite a run differential of minus-20. With just 19 games left in the regular season, anything is possible. In terms of smaller but meaningful milestones, the victory Thursday ensured Baltimore would have its first non-losing season since 1997. Which naturally makes us think of ... the Pirates.

A little over two weeks ago, we were listening to some national sports talk radio while driving home from a Twins game. The Pirates had already started to fade some from the lofty perch they held in early July, when midway through the sesaon they were in first place in their division. But they still had a decent amount of momentum -- decent enough that one of the paid talkers said, "And they ARE going to finish above .500," as if it was a fact.

We remember thinking that such a proclamation had the potential to be the kiss of death. And, well, here we are now. Pittsburgh quickly went from 10 games over .500 to just two games over .500. At 72-70, and riding a six-game losing streak, the good news for Pittsburgh is that it gets to play four games next with the Cubs. The bad news is the Pirates were just swept at home by the lowly Northsiders last weekend.

The past five losses have been particularly excruciating -- all by 1 or 2 runs, all with limited offense. And finishing above .500 is a big deal.

They, too, have an inglorious streak -- even longer than that of the Orioles. Not since 1992, when Barry Bonds was trying (and failing) to throw out Sid Bream in Game 7 of the NLCS, have the Pirates managed to at least win as many games as they lost in a season. It seemed like a sure thing to many folks earlier this year -- and even to one sports talker as recently as a couple weeks ago. Now? Well, not everyone can be the Orioles.

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