Opposite dugout: Disappointing season nearing an end for Pirates

PiratesLogo.jpgManager: Clint Hurdle (7th season)

Record: 71-85

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: CF Andrew McCutchen (.273/.358/.470 with 26 HR, 79 RBIs), 1B Josh Bell (24 HR, 83 RBIs), RHP Chad Kuhl (7-11, 4.31 ERA), LHP Felipe Rivero (1.72 ERA, 19 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 0-2

Pitching probables:

Sept. 26: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. RHP Trevor Williams, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Sept. 27: RHP Gabriel Ynoa vs. RHP Chad Kuhl, 7:05 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Pirates:

Like the Orioles, the Pirates are nearing the end of a disappointing season. The won’t finish at or above .500, the playoffs are out of the question and planning has already begun for 2018. What’s more, dropping seven of their last 10 games indicates the Pirates are merely playing out the string. Guys aren’t setting up tee times yet, but it’s a good bet they know exactly what they’ll be doing at this time next week. The Pirates, who have won two straight, are 8-10 in interleague games this season.

One of the biggest questions the Pirates will have to answer is what to do with center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The Bucs hold a $14.5 million option on their longtime face of the franchise with a $1 million buyout. McCutchen’s .273/.358/.470 output probably means he’s coming back, and while he might not be the same player when he was MVP in 2013, he’s still a reliable major league player. Of course, that doesn’t mean his name won’t be mentioned in endless trade rumors this offseason - as it was last year - but he’ll fetch less at this stage of his career. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates start to retool: right fielder Gregory Polanco (10 homers, 33 RBIs) and left fielder Starling Marte (seven homers, 28 RBIs in a suspension-shortened season) have underperformed. Rookie first baseman Josh Bell has been productive, with 24 homers and a team-leading 83 RBIs, but is batting only .250 and hasn’t driven in a run since Sept. 7.

Right-hander Trevor Wiliams, who starts Tuesday’s opener, is 1-5 in his last seven games, but he’s yielded only one home run in his past five starts. Williams hasn’t consistently given the Pirates length in his starts, going six or more innings only four times in his past 10 starts. He’s never faced the Orioles. Wednesday’s starter is righty Chad Kuhl, who has pitched in some bad luck this season, receiving only two or fewer runs of support in 11 of his 30 starts. Kuhl walks a lot of hitters - 71 in 152 1/3 innings - and is 1-3 with a 3.33 ERA in his past five starts.

The Pirates acquired their current closer, hard-throwing lefty Felipe Rivero, from the Nationals last July in exchange for closer Mark Melancon. It’s proven to be a great deal for the Bucs. Rivero has enjoyed a breakout season, saving 19 games in 21 opportunities, posting a 1.72 ERA and fanning 86 in 73 1/3 innings.

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