After completing a weekend sweep of the Kansas City Royals, Buccos Nation woke up this morning and found themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL Central. The three wins over the weekend was their sixth win in the past seven games. Pittsburgh is now five games over .500 at 32-27. The Pirates have not finished above .500 since 1992.
A main reason the Pirates have had success this season, is due to their nearly flawless pitching staff. Their 3.25 ERA is good enough for third best in the MLB. Yes, that is not a typo. The Pirates really have the third best ERA. Management’s focus on pitching over the past couple of years is finally paying off. Starters Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett each went at least seven innings this weekend (so much for Burnett being named one of the most overrated pitchers in a recent players poll), while the bullpen helped out with 8 2/3 scoreless innings.
Offensively speaking, without Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates would be having an even harder time producing runs. Even after he went 0-7 in the first two games of the series, he went 2-3 with a homer and 3 RBIs on Sunday. So yes, he drove in all three runs scored. Saying McCutchen is a big part of this team is an understatement. He is the only Pirate with an OPS better than the league average.
But recently the Pirates have had contributors throughout the lineup during the last 15 games that have been adding the needed spark. Garrett Jones (3 HRs, .300 average), Neil Walker (.882 OPS, .340 average), and Rod Barajas (.909 OPS, .343 average) have all chipped in.
The Pirates have had debatably one of the hardest schedules this early in the season, but the true test will be whether (unlike last season) they can keep up the success after the all-star break.
As a Pittsburgh girl who hasn’t seen a winning team since the year I was born, my fingers are crossed.