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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres

Avoiding spoilers: Phillies vs. Pirates series preview

The Phillies need to beat the teams they should, and they should beat the Pirates

Rich Hill is spending his golden years in Pittsburgh for some reason
| Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

After taking two out of three from a first place Orioles team, the Phillies will begin a stretch of less-imposing opponents. If they are serious about making the playoffs, the Phillies will need to rack up wins in the coming weeks, and it starts with their cross-state rivals who have fallen off after a hot start to the season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 45-57, Fifth place in National League Central (11.5 games back)

The manager

Derek Shelton took over the Pirates in 2020, and the team had a ghastly .317 winning percentage in the shortened season. The next two seasons, the Pirates lost 100+ games. And if the team continues its recent trajectory, there’s a chance they might make it three in a row in 2023.

Is any of this Shelton’s fault? Probably not, because the Pirates have proven themselves to be one of the worst organizations in baseball. But he certainly hasn’t proven to be a miracle worker, and fans seem anxious to try someone new, simply for a change of pace.

The last time they met

The Phillies hosted the Pirates for a three-game set in August 2022, and after winning the first two, they were shut out in the final by a combination of four pitchers who had absolutely no business shutting any team out.

What’s the deal with the Pirates?

As recently as June 15, the Pirates were tied for first place in the AL Central. Everyone knew that wouldn’t last, and sure enough, it didn’t. When they lost their first five games after the All-Star break, it looked bleak, although they did manage to take two of three from the Padres this week.

How could we have predicted this?

It was so hard to predict the Pirates would be poor when they made such a flashy signing before the season.

I mean, what were the chances that signing Vince Velasquez wouldn’t have worked out? I suppose it was somewhat of a surprise that Velasquez suffered an injury - he’s been out since May - and wasn’t just his usual maddeningly inconsistent self.

Do they have anyone good?

The lineup - last in the NL in runs scored - has very few players to be worried about, especially now that former Phillie Carlos Santana has been traded. A couple of years ago, Bryan Reynolds seemed like a rising star, but he’s taken a massive step backwards since then.

Second year outfielder Jack Suwinski has been their best player on offense, and we’ll see if he can avoid getting pulled into the abyss of suckiness like Reynolds has.

The pitching staff isn’t much better. The Pirates do have an All-Star pitcher scheduled to go on Friday in Mitch Keller, but he’s been roughed up to the tune of 14 runs in 11 innings over his last two starts.

On the rare occasion that the Pirates have a lead in the ninth inning, David Bednar is a top notch closer. However, he’s been drawing interest on the trade market, so who knows if he’ll even be on the team through the weekend.

Running up that Hill

When I saw the Pirates’ scheduled starting pitchers for the series, I assumed that Rich Hill couldn’t possibly be THAT Rich Hill. But no, it’s the former Cub (among many other teams) pitching in his 19th season at age 43. You’d think that a 43-year-old might have something better to do than toil away for one of the majors’ worst teams, but apparently not.

Hill is also drawing some trade interest, and while he’s not having an awful season, that should tell you just how much of a seller’s market this year’s trade deadline is.

The Pirates as an MCU villain


This is an obvious match since both share a skull and crossbones motif. Beyond that, when he was first introduced, Brock Rumlow was presented as being good. But as the characters themselves even mentioned in Avengers: Endgame, it was pretty obvious that Rumlow and his cohorts were going to turn out to be bad.


Last series answer: Apparently none of you are true sickos who remembered Dustin McGowan as the Phillie who gave up five home runs in one game to the Orioles. The Jeff Francoeur “white flag” game is often considered the nadir of the Phillies’ rebuild, but that 19-3 shellacking has a pretty strong case.

This series question: Name one of the four Pirates pitchers who combined to shut out the Phillies last season.

Non-Phillies thought


Overall, I thought Secret Invasion was fine. It was entertaining enough television and gave Nick Fury a central role which many people thought was long overdue. But there were some major flaws with the show.

There was no logical reason why none of the actual superheroes would have been called in to help. If Fury was truly worried about them being replaced by Skrulls, you’d think he would have at least warned them what was going on so they wouldn’t be taken by surprise.

As for Fury’s explanation that this was his mess and he didn’t want to be saved by superheroes again, that doesn’t make sense given his history. The human race is going to be replaced by aliens, and all of a sudden, Fury is too proud to need assistance from the Avengers and company?

Once the President was attacked and it was announced that it was done by aliens, you’d think some of the Avengers might have proactively gotten involved. Could we at least have gotten a scene where imposter James Rhodes called Sam Wilson and told him not to interfere?

Finally, making G’iah so powerful is going to cause problems down the line. When a character is too strong, they always need to introduce some sort of plot contrivance to explain why she can be beaten, or else the character needs to conveniently forget how powerful they are. (For example, 99% of the plotlines on The Flash could have been solved if Barry didn’t inexplicably stop moving and allow his enemies to attack.)

Closing thought

There are five teams currently within a game of the NL’s three Wild Card spots, and a few more lurking on the periphery. There’s not going to be much margin of error, so the Phillies need to win the games they’re “supposed" to win. They need to take at least two out of three.

Ah yes indeed it’s fun time: Phillies vs. Mets series preview

Rise and Phight: 9/29/2023

Just call me Angel: Pirates 3, Phillies 2