Pittsburgh Pirates Good, Bad, & Ugly from opening series


The Pittsburgh Pirates have started the season 0-3 after being swept by a division rival.  As such there is usually a lot of ugly to discuss, making it very hard to find some good things to take away, but I will give it a shot anyway.  Here, I’ll take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly and see how the Pirates can make adjustments to stop the bleeding and win some games.

The Good

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The Pirates did have a shot to win each and every game they played in the series and lost two of them by only one run.  In those two games, they had the lead late in each game.  The first game saw Reds ace Johnny Cueto do what he does against the Pirates lineup and he gave the Reds a great chance to win the opener, leaving the game with a 2-0 lead after seven innings.  Cueto was lifted for a pinch hitter and the Bucs only had one real shot to get back in the game in the eighth inning. They responded by hitting Kevin Gregg hard and tying the game on Andrew McCutchen‘s 2 run HR.

There are a couple of players who have started the season off pretty well at the plate, with Gregory Polanco batting .300, Francisco Cervelli batting .286 and Pedro Alvarez batting .300.  Two of the three starting pitchers in this series looked solid between Francisco Liriano pitching 7 innings giving up 2 hits, 2 runs, 3 BB and 7 K while A.J. Burnett pitched 5 1/3 innings giving up 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB and 7 K.

The Bad

Gerrit Cole had a shaky outing going 5 innings with 5 H 3 R 2 B and 6 K.  It’s not a terrible day, but for a guy who is being relied upon to be a staff ace, he needs to pitch more efficiently, hopefully pitching into the seventh inning every start.  The bullpen will get worn down pretty quickly if the top of the rotation can’t go more than six innings every game.  Some Pirates hitters aren’t looking so great at the plate and missing out on taking advantage of opportunities.  McCutchen is currently batting .167 but more troubling was his easy out in game three with the bases loaded and two outs.  This is the exact situation the team asks for, to have a lot of guys on base and your best hitter at the plate.  Granted, no players can succeed every time but more often than not would be welcomed.  It’s a little frustrating when your 3-4-5 hitters (McCutchen, Neil Walker, Starling Marte) are each hitting under .200 so far. Obviously, it is early and no cause for concern for slow starts.  I would expect each to bat at least .280 or above by season’s end.

The Ugly

The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has lost 3 straight games with Tony Watson giving up the go-ahead HR to Todd Frazier in the eighth inning of game one, Radhames Liz hitting a guy, walking another and giving the walkoff to Joey Votto with two outs.  The loss in game three featured questionable callup Rob Scahill facing the Reds 3-4-5 hitters in the bottom of the 9th and Polanco trying to throw the ball before he caught it to lose again in heartbreaking fashion.

Last Word

The team took a dive by losing all three games against a division rival but the good news is, it’s only the first 3 games of the season and there is plenty of time to make it a distant memory.  I don’t believe the Reds will maintain this level of success and the Pirates could have won at least two of the three games as they were not blown out in any of them.  However, I would like to see more consistency from the bullpen to be able to hold a lead and shut the other teams down.  That’s what championship caliber teams do, shut their opponents down and not allow them to get right back in the game after fighting so hard to get the lead to begin with.  The hitting will come around and when the bats explode, you hope that the few players who have had early success will maintain that success and the entire lineup will be deeper and more productive.

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