Pittsburgh Pirates takeaways from Cardinals sweep
Pittsburgh Pirates fans are feeling the fallout from being swept in three games by the St. Louis Cardinals. Although the series itself lived up to its billing in a sports weekend filled with hype, the results were less than ideal. The sting of defeat was so bitter that our own Matt Bower could not resist filing another of his patented Back-Deck Reports. From his missive:
"What Pirates fans fail to realize is the St. Louis Cardinals organization is like the Italian mafia; the Godfather keels over with a heart attack, but another, possibly more ruthless, Don immediately takes the helm. In other words, until St. Louis sustains a long-term descent in the standings, the other teams in the NL Central are tied to chairs, and the Redbirds are standing behind them with a Louisville Slugger."
Harsh words, but true nontheless. The Pirates now embark on a six-game homestand, with only a three game slate against the Reds serving as a break before seeing those Cardinals again. As the team and its fans enjoy a much-needed “off day,” let’s now look at three important takeaways from The Sweep.
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1. Josh Harrison is absolutely not right
It seems like only yesterday that JHay was hitting a home-opener home run to whip the PNC Park faithful into a frenzy. Since then, Harrison has been 13-for-73 for a .178 batting average. Included in those numbers is an abysmal 1-for-17 against the Cardinals. While not striking out much (16%), Jhay also is not doing himself any favors, drawing only three walks in 2015 thus far, one of which being intentional. Clint Hurdle has now moved him into the second spot in the order, obstensibly to give him more RBI chances. Has the league punched back at Harrison? Does Harrison have another counter punch much like he had last year? Time will tell of course, but in the near-term I’m interested to see how Hurdle handles Harrison’s mighty struggles over the next few games.
2. The starting pitching won’t be pitching like this all season, and Pirates must take advantage
Ray Searage is the one person in the entire Pittsburgh Pirates organization whose seat is as icy as the Pirates’ bats. Yes, the Pirates starting staff has been nothing but phenomenal out of the gate, posting the second best ERA in the NL (2.67) and leading the league in .BAA (.223). Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, & Francisco Liriano have all been as-advertised or better, yet the Pirates refuse to support their amazing starting pitching. Burnett has the lowest run support of any qualifying major league starter, with the Pirates scrounging up 1.40 runs in his starts. With Burnett pushing the clock and Liriano still out to prove he can stay healthy, one would have to assume that the performance of the Pirates starters will regress a bit closer to the mean. For the Pirates offense to be so stagnant when their starters are this dominant could end up costing this team in September.
3. The Pirates might just do well to attack more often
In my write up of the series finale, I mention that Jung-ho Kang’s first MLB home run was impressive due to it coming on the first pitch he saw from Trevor Rosenthal. Against the opposing pitcher’s first pitch, the Pirates slash .426/.456/.752 as a team, with eight home runs. One way to get out of a near team-wide slump is to switch into attack mode with every non-situational at bat, and I think the Pirates would be well served to do just that.
Of course, it is early, and by all measures the 2015 version of the Pittsburgh Pirates is in far better shape than their previous year’s incarnation.
Of course, we can’t keep towing that “it’s still early” line much longer.