Who Are These Guys: Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Rotation Doing Unlikely Things

The Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitching is worse than last year and the team has a better record against a tougher schedule.  How in the hell does that happen when the rotation included Jonathan Sanchez for a few starts?

It’s a tribute to the ace, A.J. Burnett doing his thing every time he gets the ball.

It’s a tribute to some improved offense which isn’t hard to do when compared to last season’s start-of-the-season no show.   Surely everyone remembers (no matter how hard they try to forget) that the Bucs offense was one of the worst in history early last year.  It’s not tearing the cover off the ball this season, but it’s respectable at least.

It’s tribute to a strong bullpen effort in timely situations.    Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli have been striking out batters at an unwordly rate coming out of the Pirates pen.  The Bucs pen has recorded a flurrying ray of punchouts–113 batters thus far–the Bucs pen only trails two teams in baseball in strikeouts–Boston and Detroit.

In 2012, the Bucs had a 16-18 record after 34 games last season and 17-18 after 35 games.  The Pirates are 18-16 heading into tonights game against the New York Mets.  Last year, the starters were pitching gem after gem, but not seeing much reward for their efforts.  Some of that has happened recently thanks to two unlikely suspects in the starting rotation.

Jeanmar Gomez who lived in the middle of the plate in spring training has found a way to get late life from his fastball.  The numbers show Gomez has pitched rather well dancing around 11 walks and only 15 strikeouts in his 22.2 innings pitched.  But Gomez has two victories under his belt thanks to his shiny 2.38 ERA and a 152 ERA+.

The right-hander has made two important starts recently going 9 innings in total against the M’s and the Brewers.  Gomez has struckout eight, given up six hits and allowed two earned runs.  It’s never real pretty.  There are moments when I admit my face turns red from holding my breath, but I have always released the air with a smile on my face as Gomez has come out unscathed.

It’s pretty important to look back and see how vital his five inning spot start for James McDonald in the first of two against the Mariners really was.  Could you even imagine if the Bucs had dropped that game?  It’s equally important to see his start against the Brewers when he held the sign stealers to two runs over four innings.  Not pretty, but effective none the less.  Especially after seeing Gomez get lit up this spring–never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be writing about the contribution Jeanmar Gomez would make on the 2013 Buccos.

Jeff Locke has also danced around his 19 walks in 39.2 innings pitched.  The southpaw has given up 29 hits and has struckout 22.  The lefty is limiting the opposition’s hits and while not getting deep into games, he’s doing what some people would say is enough considering the Buccos strong bullpen.

In Locke’s last four starts he has gone 24 innings and allowed just 11 hits.  Locke has lowered his earned run average from over five after three starts to under three after five starts.  It’s enough to make me eat my words, we didn’t expect to see the left-hander have this much success right away, especially considering in those last 24 innings he has issued 14 walks.

For something special to happen in Pittsburgh this season,  to push the club over the .500 mark, to battle for a (hide your eyes) postseason berth,  it’s going to take a number of ‘unlikely suspects’ doing unlikely things.

Perhaps it’s already started?

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