Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pirates Game 25 Recap - Pirates 9, Cardinals 0

-The Pirates plan of attack nowadays seems to be to lose the first game of the series and then just decide that they aren't going to lose the rest of the series and then take care of business. Just another unreal performance today all the way around and the Pirates take a series from the Cardinals and move to 15-10 which is good for first place in the NL Central on April 28. It wasn't until July a year ago that the Pirates got to the top of the division and while 25 games is a ridiculously small sample side in a 162 game season it feels good to see the Pirates play so well and get production from multiple players. This team started the year 1-5 and now is on a streak where they are 14-5. Nice.

-Jeff Locke was coming off his best start of the season (career) and he matched that again today. He went seven innings and gave up only three hits and no runs while striking out four and walking two. The two starts that Locke had where he was highly productive he combined for four walks and in his previous two starts before that he combined for eight walks (four in each). Not real tough to figure out what he needs to do to give himself a chance to be successful. Throw strikes and limit the free passes and he could stay in the rotation even after Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano comes back. While it is really good to see back-to-back starts like this he probably isn't going to pitch as well as his 2.83 ERA that he has now. After the start his xFIP is up at 4.60 but if he can have a few more solid starts and keep the walks down and limit players hitting the ball out of the ballpark then it could get interesting.

-Just huge by Locke that he could go out and get seven innings. Justin Wilson came in for the final two innings and got the combined shutout but the guys in the pen go to sit and relax and it was refreshing to see someone other than A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez go out there and have a solid game on consecutive starts.

-Russell Martin. Man. Two home runs for Martin today and he has just been ridiculously good. He's now up to .267/.345/.547 after his three hits and he now leads the team in home runs with five. His defense has been good and after a rough start to the season where he was below .100 for the first 30-40 plate appearances he might be in the running for the top hitter on the team with Starling Marte. The Pirates have been dreadfully bad at MLB free agency the last few years but right now it is looking like this has been a great signing. The Pirates have been awful behind the plate and after last year with how bad Rod Barajas was this is like having your cake and eating it too. I mean the differences behind the plate from last year to this year can't really even be explained the gap is so big.

-Speaking of Marte he collected multiple hits for the 11th time this season.

-Jose Tabata hit a home run. It's true, it does happen. He did strike out three times (the Pirates did 11 times) but the home run was the second run for the Pirates at the time so for a while it was looking like that was a huge hit. It still was a big hit but the Pirates piled it on late to make it seem insignificant.

-The Cardinals pen, yikes. The Pirates got to Shelby Miller three three runs over 5.2 innings but then tacked on six runs to the pen over the final 3.1. This is exactly what the Pirates have to do to be successful. They worked the count and made Miller (who has been really good this year) throw a ton of pitches (113) and then take advantage of the pen, especially ones that have been struggling.

-I talked about it before the season that this Pirates team is probably the most offensively talented one that the Pirates have had in some time. Last year Andrew McCutchen (who didn't play today) really was the guy that led the offense. That is good because it doesn't matter how you win but when he had an off day there was no chance the Pirates were going to win. What has been nice about this year is that the production is coming all over the board. One game it is Michael McKenry hitting a pair of home runs late and the next night it is Gaby Sanchez going deep. On another night it is Brandon Inge doubling home a run and the next Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez knock in runs. It is good to have balance and it is weird to see since the Pirates didn't have this over the last couple of years when they were contending. While I don't think the Pirates can sustain the pace they are playing now it gives them a better chance to win on a nightly basis when it is more than one or two guys who are getting the job done.

-First place after 25 games really doesn't mean all that much but damn if it doesn't feel good. It is really fun watching the Pirates play baseball right now and while they are going to eventually have a losing streak just be happy that they aren't awful like they were the first six games of the season and that they are competing, and beating, some of the best the NL has to offer.

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