1st Pitch: Pirates futility streak poised to continue

Today’s Trivia: A Pittsburgh Pirates loss tonight would be loss No. 82 for the team, assuring them of an 18th straight losing season – an historic record across the four major sports. Flash back to 1992, the last time the Pirates had a winning year. Here’s your three-part trivia question:

Which manager (still managing today) led them to a 96-66 record that year?

Which pitcher (still pitching today) went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA for them that year?

Which batter (now MANAGING today) managed just a .196 BA for them before being released in May?

Quick Hits: More on the Pirates and their amazing string of futility:

In the 17 seasons of the Pirates' drought, the New York Yankees have NEVER had a losing season. In fact, in a tremendous coincidence, the last time the Yankees had a losing season was the last time the Pirates had a winning season – 1992.

The Atlanta Braves have finished with only two losing seasons during that span, both of them happening in the last five years (2006 and 2008).

One big change for the Pirates between the winning season of 1992 and the losing season of 1993? No Barry Bonds. A free agent, Bonds left for the San Francisco Giants and the Pirates haven’t topped .500 since.

But if you’re going to call it “The Bonds Curse” you might need to call it “The Drabek Curse” too. Doug Drabek finished fifth in Cy Young voting for that 1992 Pirates team, then bolted in free agency to the Houston Astros. Unlike Bonds, Drabek was never the same. He never reached the 15 wins or 2.77 ERA he had with the 1992 Pirates.

How about a milestone to cap it off: during the streak of futility, the Pirates have lost 1,599 games – tonight would be loss No. 1,600. Johan Santana has a .663 career win percentage, best of any active pitcher. For Santana to rack up as many losses as the Pirates have in their losing span, he’d have to pitch and get a decision in every single game for more than 29 straight regular seasons (4,744 games).

Finally, during the Pirates' losing span, Pittsburgh fans have been used to counting down the days until the NFL and NHL seasons start. In those 17 years, the Steelers have 13 winning seasons and two Super Bowl wins. The Penguins also have 13 winning seasons and a Stanley Cup.

Today’s Leaderboard: We’re dedicating today’s leaderboard to the unofficial MLB leaders in bouncing back from a team slump this season. The award thus far goes to the Cincinnati Reds, who shook off getting swept at home by the St. Louis Cardinals by simply running off two sweeps of their own. That continues a trend all year for the Reds. They’ve only been swept four times, but each time, they’ve bounced back to either sweep or win their next series.



MLB This Season

Since 2000, the longest team win streak after getting swept (min. three-game sweep) belongs to the Boston Red Sox, who reeled off 12 straight in June 2006 on the heels of getting swept in Minneapolis.

Key Matchups: Of all the pitchers in MLB whom Jimmy Rollins is familiar with, would you guess that Jason Marquis is his biggest nemesis? There are 23 pitchers that Rollins has faced at least 35 times, including such aces as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez. But it’s Marquis whom Rollins has the lowest BA (.139) and slugging percentage (.167) against.

Brian Duensing has to be psyched to throw against the Angels tonight – he’s faced nine of them in his career and they’ve had little-to-no success. Those batters, from Bobby Abreu to Reggie Willits, are a combined 4-22 (.182 BA) with three strikeouts against Duensing. None of them have an extra-base hit off him.

Every Cardinal who bats against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner will be making his first career plate appearance against Bumgarner. So let’s take a look at what might be in the scouting report: he’s even better out of the stretch. Bumgarner has buckled down and pitched better when runners are on base this season – a .319 opponents BA with the bases empty and just a .208 with runners on.

Trivia Answer: Current Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was at the helm of that 1992 Pirates team.

Current Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield had that blistering record and ERA, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting.

And current Arizona Diamondbacks manager (and former MVP) Kirk Gibson had a cup of coffee with the Pirates that season. He was released and then temporarily retired before signing with the Tigers for the next season to begin the twilight of his playing career.