With five games remaining on the schedule, it’s possible that Mitch Keller gets one more start this year. It’s also possible that the Pirates shut him down, preserving his prospect and rookie status in the process.

If last night was it for Keller, then I can’t think of a better way for him to finish his first run through the majors. He went up against the Cubs, who needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and shut them down for five innings, striking out seven in the process.

Keller has quietly been on fire over the last month. His ERA has been inflated, sitting at 5.74 during that span over 26.2 innings. However, his xFIP is at 2.39 in the same stretch, and he’s striking out 33.6% of batters during this stretch. Even better, the last two starts have seen the ERA results match and exceed the advanced metrics, which is what the Pirates need to see more of in 2020.

I’ve already said that I see the makings of a strong rotation for the Pirates next year. The key phrase there is “the makings of”, as they definitely don’t have a strong rotation right now.

Keller is a key reason why I believe they have the makings of a strong rotation. He’s got the upside of a top of the rotation starter, and the stuff he’s shown over the last month has given hope that it won’t be long until we see consistent top of the rotation results. You shouldn’t rely on young players just breaking into the majors, which is why the Pirates need more than Keller for a good rotation (Chris Archer bouncing back, plus a good outside addition would be a nice boost).

But Keller is the first building block. The Pirates have him under team control through the 2025 season, longer than any other pitcher on the staff. If they’re going to get back to contending during the next six years, Keller is going to be a big reason why.

So seeing that start last night feels like a great place to end his 2019 season, as it would end things on a good note, with the promise of more to come next year when it might actually matter.

TODAY’S ARTICLES

John Dreker will have our Bradenton Marauders top ten list this afternoon. We’ll also have any news that comes up, and the live game discussion.

SONG OF THE DAY

I feel like so many bands are going with an 80s synth sound these days. I guess the same goes for TV shows, and especially horror shows. My analysis: I love it.

DAILY QUIZ

Name the Pirates who have led the league in the given categories.


THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the last Pirates player to lead the league in stolen bases.

The most recent former player is pitcher Vance Worley, who turns 32 today. He played for the Pirates during the 2014-15 seasons. Worley posted a 12-10 record for the Pirates, with a 3.31 ERA in 182.1 innings, making 25 starts and 16 relief appearances

Tony Womack was drafted by the Pirates in 1991 and made his MLB debut two years later. He played three partial seasons (1993-94,96) before finally getting a chance to play full-time in 1997. That year he finished ninth in the Rookie of the Year voting and made the All-Star team. Womack stole 60 bases to lead the National League. The following season, he led the NL again with 58 steals. Each of those two seasons he scored 85 runs. Prior to the 1999 season, Womack was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Jason Boyd and Paul Weichard. That year, he led the NL for a third straight season in steals, swiping a career-high 72 bags. He also set a career-best with 111 runs scored.

Also born on this date, Michael Crotta, who pitched 15 games in relief for the 2011 Pirates. He had a 9.28 ERA in 10.2 innings. That was Crotta’s only big league experience.

Dick Davis, outfielder for the 1982 Pirates. He hit .182 in 39 games. Davis was acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays for Wayne Hordhagen, who played just one game for the Pirates after he was acquired for Bill Robinson ten days earlier.

Dave Robertson, outfielder for the 1921 Pirates. While with the New York Giants, he led the National League in homers in 1916 and 1917.  The Pirates dealt pitcher Elmer Ponder to the Cubs to get Robertson in June, 1921. With Pittsburgh, he hit .322 with 48 RBIs in 60 games. Robertson held out during Spring Training in 1922 and was released.

On this date in 1960, the Pirates clinched their first National League title in 33 years. They lost to the Milwaukee Braves, but a 5-0 loss to the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs. The Pirates went on to win their third World Series title that year, defeating the New York Yankees in seven games. Here’s the boxscore.

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