Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates made their way in to first place in mid-July, being led by the pitching staff. A lot of the strong pitching they received was due to luck. Whether it was high strand rates, or much-too-low BABIP or HR/FB ratios, almost every starter in the rotation was due for a regression. And not only did those pitchers regress in the second half of the season, but most went the opposite way on the luck scale.
The Pirates opened the season taking two out of three games from the Philadelphia Phillies. Once again, it was from strong pitching. The Phillies threw out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Vance Worley. All three pitched very well. Halladay threw eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Lee gave up one run on two walks and two hits in six innings. Worley gave up a run on a walk and five hits in six innings.
The Pirates threw out Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens, and James McDonald. That’s not exactly a Halladay/Lee/Worley trio. But that didn’t stop the Pirates starters from putting up similar numbers. Bedard gave up one run on a walk and six hits in seven innings. Karstes gave up a run on a walk and five hits in six innings. McDonald gave up two runs on two walks and four hits in six innings.
In 19 innings over three starts, the Pirates’ starters have combined for a 1.89 ERA, and a 1.00 WHIP. The Phillies’ starters were better, with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.60 WHIP in 20 innings. But the Pirates’ starters did their jobs. They kept the team in the game against three tough pitchers. Bedard left his start trailing by one. Karstens left his start with the score tied. McDonald left his start trailing by one.
Give credit to the bullpen. They’ve combined for nine innings without an earned run. The only runs allowed were the two unearned today against Jared Hughes. The offense has also come through the last two days with strong fundamentals. In both walk-off wins the Pirates led off with a double, moved the runner over to third with a bunt, and came through with a walk off single to win.
Without the rotation putting up strong numbers, it wouldn’t matter how good the bullpen was, and the offense would have to come up with much more in those final innings than just manufacturing one run. The Pirates rotation won’t continue putting up a sub-2.00 ERA, but if they can keep the team close, they’ve got the bullpen and the offense needed to stage a comeback. We saw how that worked out in the last two games.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates had their second straight walk-off win against the Phillies. Game story here. One thing I liked about the game was the Andrew McCutchen walk-off. It was good for the obvious reason that it won the game, but also in the sense that McCutchen came through in a key situation. You need a guy in the lineup who you’d want at the plate in that type of situation. It seems like the Pirates haven’t had that type of player for a long time — a player who was a good chance to come through in those situations. Another key for the team having success is McCutchen coming through in more of those key situations.
**Prospect Watch: Only two games today, with Altoona and Bradenton both off.
**Wilbur Miller was at the West Virginia game, and has a recap here.
**Brad Lincoln had a good start in Indianapolis. Here is Nancy Zinni’s recap.
**Matt Curry has shortened his leg kick to try and adjust to Double-A pitching.