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It’s August 10, 2012, and if the regular season ended today, the Pittsburgh Pirates would be in the postseason. They are currently 2.5 games back of the first place (and currently slumping) Cincinnati Reds, and occupy one of the two Wild Card spots in the National League. But there has been some cause for concern as of late, as quite frankly, the Pirates haven’t been playing all that great of baseball lately.

We all knew the offensive would cool off a bit from that torrid pace they were winning games in June and July. The Bucs are 15-11 since the All Star break and are just 4-4 so far this month, including a rather disappointing series split with the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this week. Are we being a bit too critical here? Probably…but that’s what happens to a fan base that has endured nearly two decades of losing. It’s not so much that the Pirates are losing games…but it’s why they’re losing games.

Their defense has been sloppy lately, and their bullpen has struggled the past couple games. The offense has been leaving way too many runners on base, spoiling opportunities to extend leads early in games. Sure, all teams go through lulls offensively and defensively…and this weekend against the San Diego Padres will serve as a good chance for the Bucs to regain their swagger and put together more quality-sound baseball.

Pedro Alvarez is struggling while Neil Walker is on fire. Michael McKenry continues to prove that he deserves more playing time, while Andrew McCutchen, despite maintaining his Major League leading batting average, has hit a skid terms of RBI’s and homeruns. Still, despite the issues the past few days with leaving runners on base, the offense seems to be on par at this point. The Pirates are putting James McDonald, A.J. Burnett, and Erik Bedard on the mound this weekend in front of three massive crowds at PNC Park against a Padres’ team that struggles mightily on the road. Good things are ahead the next three days…right?

Padres (49-64) vs. Pirates (63-48)

About the Padres…

49-64 Record, 4th In N.L. West

Last Series: 3 Game Series Sweep Vs. Chicago Cubs

The Padres enter this weekend’s series at PNC Park on a four-game winning streak, including a three-game series streak of the Chicago Cubs. Despite being 15 games under .500 on the season, San Diego has played decent baseball at home, spotting a 27-30 record at Petco Park. They have been playing better, though, as the season has gone along. After a sub-.500 record in June, they had a 15-11 record in July, and are 5-3 so far this month. They have a 15-11 record since the All Star break, but have now traveled across the country for the start of their road trip, where they have a 22-34 record this season.

Chase Headley, who the Pirates were rumored to have significant interest in leading up to last month’s trade deadline, leads the Padres in nearly every major offensive category, including batting average (.276), homeruns (15), RBI’s (62), and runs scored (58). Clayton Richard, who the Bucs will miss this weekend, leads San Diego in wins and innings pitched.

8/10 – Edinson Volquez (SD) (7-8, 3.73 ERA, 125 K, 80 BB, WHIP 1.36) vs. James McDonald (PIT) (10-5, 3.42 ERA, 122 K, 51 BB, WHIP 1.19)

8/11 – Jason Marquis (SD) (7-10, 5.47 ERA, 78 K, 34 BB, WHIP 1.50) vs. A.J. Burnett (PIT) (14-3, 3.19 ERA, 109 K, 40 BB, WHIP 1.15)

8/12 – Eric Stults (SD) (2-2, 2.72 ERA, 21 K, 15 BB, WHIP 1.28) vs. Erik Bedard (PIT) (6-12, 4.53 ERA, 105 K, 47 BB, WHIP 1.40)

Quotes From Both Sides:

[box_dark] “He’s dangerous every time he steps to the plate. He’s a proven offensive player. When he’s in there, he’s an offensive weapon.” [/box_dark]

Padres’ manager Bud Black on Carlos Quentin’s hot streak at the plate

[box_dark] “I’m not going to hang my hat on day games guaranteeing he’ll get hits all the time. It hasn’t played out that way lately. Right now, I’m just looking at the quality of his at-bats.” [/box_dark]

Clint Hurdle on not starting Pedro Alvarez on Thursday afternoon

After a relatively average performance against the Diamondbacks filled with sloppy play and missed opportunities, the Pirates continue their home stand against the N.L. West this weekend. Trailing the Cincinnati Reds by 2.5 games in the N.L. Central, the Bucs need a strong series this weekend against the Padres to keep putting pressure on the division leaders.

Check back here all weekend for pre and post game videos, another episode of our Bucco Beat podcast, as well as recaps and reactions to each game of the series from us, the Fans From The Stands!

And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!