The Pittsburgh Pirates are 14-6 in the month of May. The ballclub did what they were supposed to do against some struggling teams.
Now, the 2013 schedule gets more intense and more difficult, with the team facing the Milwaukee Brewers at the House of Horrors, the Detroit Tigers, the hated Reds, and then the Atlanta Braves.
For the Pirates to survive this challenging stretch, a few things must happen:
The offense can’t rank 19th or 20th in Major League Baseball in runs scored. The Tigers have scored more runs than any team in the game, thanks in large part to Miguel Cabrera and his incredible thunder stick. The Reds are also in the top ten, with the Braves not too far behind.
The key for this stretch is how well the Pirates’ offense can perform against these high octane offenses. The Buccos played well recently against the Brewers, and Milwaukee isn’t scoring a ton of runs, either. This would be a good time for the Bucs to roll into Beer Town and grab a series.
If the team can hang with Detroit in a home-and-home interleague series, it sets up the anticipated showdown with the Reds at PNC Park next weekend.
Neil Walker must breakout of his .171 slump over the last ten games. Walker has reached base seven times via free passes, but has also been punched out nine times in his last ten games.
Pedro Alvarez will have to ignite the Bucs offense with his power stroke for the Bucs to put runs on the board and match the vaunted offenses they see on the schedule.
Can Clint Barmes keep hitting at the .324 clip he has been on in his last ten games? If not, Jordy Mercer has provided some punch and should be an alternative to spell Barmes, Walker and Alvarez. It might be a good time to insert Mercer at a few infield spots to keep his bat fresh, and the Bucco offensive machine churning.
This week it will be about scoring runs, there isn’t a doubt in our mind. The 1-0 wins against lowly teams are still wins, but don’t look for anything like that against Milwaukee or Detroit.
Should the offensive firepower heat up a bit when combined with the effective Pirates pitching they have received of late, the stage will be set for a much-anticipated June battle for positioning atop the National League Central next weekend.
Who’d-a thunk it?