The Pittsburgh Pirates have won 18 of their last 28 games. The Bucs offense has started to come to life and are hitting bombs at a strong pace. But the success–the Pirates are five games over .500– has come in large part thanks to the remarkable efforts from their pitching staff.
One of the biggest question marks coming into 2013 was the Pirates pitching staff. Is James McDonald over his head? Could A.J. Burnett possibly be better than 2012? Can Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli shut down games?
The answers to those questions has been yes. JMac is on the DL–and the Bucs don’t miss the right-hander. Burnett is better than ever. Mark&Cheese have been doubly delish. And the Bucs have received surprising efforts from an array of unlikely contributers.
Pittsburgh’s starting pitchers have given up just six earned runs over 34.1 innings over the last six games. Since May 1, the Pirates’ starting pitchers have made hay in the month of May, and are battling the St. Louis Cardinals for top honors in Major League Baseball.
A.J. Burnett leads the National League in strikeouts. His 66 punchouts trail only Yu Darvish in Major League Baseball. The Bucs ace hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his eight starts. If the Bucs could have scored a couple for him in his first two starts, the race between the Pirates and Cardinals would be a lot tighter in the NL Central.
Jeff Locke looks like a pitcher that has figured it out posting a 15 consecutive inning scoreless streak to lead the club. The southpaw has made seven starts and posts an ERA under 3.
Francisco Liriano came storming back from an offseason injury to strike out nine in his National League debut.
Jeanmar Gomez has provided 27.2 innings of work and has allowed just a tick over two runs per game. Gomez proved huge against the Mariners, Brewers, and Mets–three starts, three big Pittsburgh Pirates wins.
The backend of the Bucs bullpen, the shark tank, has been ridiculous.
Justin Wilson has given up four earned runs in 23.1 innings while punching out 24 strikeouts. The southpaw has gone more than an inning regularly this season and has proven to be effective repeatedly for Clint Hurdle.
Of course it hasn’t hurt that the offense has scored 28 runs in the eighth inning making games essentially seven innings when their two studs pitch late in the game. When the Bucs are ahead after seven innings, they are 17-0. When the Bucs are ahead after eight innings, they are 21-0. Not bad, huh?
Melancon has given up one run–a solo bomb to Joey Votto. The right hander has proven to be a knock-out set-up man, as the Buccos have won 15 of the 16 games Melancon has pitched.
Grilli has allowed nine hits–all singles and one double while recording 15 consecutive saves. All the while, the Pirates closer is racking up strikeouts at a pace that puts him among the leaders for NL relievers (25K in 15.2IP.) Not bad for the 36-year old right-hander who didn’t have much closing experience heading into the season.
Go back and read those names again.
It seems unlikely each of those pitchers could possibly continue to pitch as effectively as they have to this point of the season. Each of those names, even Burnett, are hardly names thrown around on MLB Network with any regularity.
Well not yet, anyway.