Last season the Pirates started the season 1-5 and things didn't look all that good. This season the Pirates finished the first week of the season 4-2 and things are a lot better even if they are heavily relying on the pitching and not getting a ton of support from the offense. Whatever, the Pirates win the series.
I really made no secret about my feelings on Edison Volquez before the year started and while I didn't think he was close to being as much of a bust as Jonathan Sanchez I still didn't think he would do a very good job. Well, so far I have been pretty wrong. He came in and threw a couple of relief innings against the Cubs in the 16 inning game and today he came out and threw 5.2 innings of really good baseball. A huge concern for Volquez has been his control and while he has some good stuff he just has to be able to put it in/around the strike zone to be successful. He threw 53 of his 81 pitches for strikes and only gave up three hits and one walk. Just really good stuff from him today. This is only one game and this doesn't make the signing good but it certainly is a good start.
Before the game we learned that Jamison Taillon was going to be shut down for the year and would be getting Tommy John surgery. Taillon was going to be relied on much like Gerrit Cole was last year to eat some innings and help with the playoff push but with this news it underscores how important it is for Volquez to step up and give them good starts. One run in almost six innings of work is what I would call a good start.
Before the season started I was OK with Tony Sanchez going back down to AAA. The backup with the big club wasn't going to get a ton of playing time and even though I think Russell Martin should get a few more days off I felt it was more important for Sanchez to play every day with Indianapolis and then come up later in the year. Right now I am not sure that is the best thing for the Pirates to do. Today Sanchez hit a double to score Pedro Alvarez in the seventh inning and it was the third game this season where Sanchez drove in the game winning run. I don't think Chris Stewart is all that valuable despite his strong defense and I hope the Pirates feel the same way. I don't think Martin is back next year and that means Sanchez needs to be ready to be the guy. Give him the whole year up here and have him ready for that. This will also let you give Martin a few more days off to be fresh for the stretch run which I think was a problem last year.
After some shaky outings by the bullpen in the past couple of days they really came out and had some shutdown innings today. Tony Watson, who has been the best in the pen, came in and struck out Matt Adams with the go-ahead run on third in the sixth inning and then threw another scoreless inning. Mark Melancon showed his 20014 form with a scoreless eighth inning on only six pitches and Jason Grilli got the save when he battled through some control problems to get a double play and a groundout. Good stuff from the pen to make Volquez's strong start hold.
As I said earlier in the week it would be nice if the Pirates could sweep the series but that is a tough thing to do. If the Pirates can win a majority of their series' they are going to be in good shape going forward and through the first two series that is what they are doing. Good stuff.