Takeaways from Pittsburgh Pirates’ sweep of Giants


The Pittsburgh Pirates got their fifth sweep of the season after finishing off the San Francisco Giants with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday. The Pirates are turning it on and are looking more and more like a team who can compete for a playoff spot and beyond if the talent just plays to what it should. This team can’t afford to fall that much further behind the Cardinals, who continue to win despite losing Adam Wainwright for the season. This series had a little bit of everything: dominant pitching, key hits from the offense, and consistent play throughout the lineup (for the most part). Let’s take a look at three takeaways from another Pirates’ sweep:

1. Jordy Mercer is heating up

Jordy Mercer had an awful start to the season. He was arguably the worst offensive starter in all of baseball. While Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen both struggled out of the gate, both recovered mightily. Mercer didn’t, and lost playing time to Jung Ho Kang in the process. Mercer went 4-8 in the series with two home runs (his first two of the year), which is a good sign for a number of reasons, one of which is the recent struggles of Kang. Mercer was batting .192 before the series and jumped his average up to .210 after Wednesday’s game. If he gets hot like he did for parts of the season last year, he can easily jump his average up above his career number of .255.

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It’s also important to note the improvement in defense from Kang to Mercer. Kang still clearly has struggles playing shortstop in the major leagues, while Jordy can be one of the best defensive shortstops in the majors as he showed in 2014.  This proved to be true in this series and may help earn Mercer more playing time as the season moves forward.

2. Gerrit Cole will compete for the National League Cy Young this year

If this wasn’t already a forgone conclusion, it is now. Outside of the double by Brandon Belt in the first inning that scored two in game one of the series (two unearned runs because of a poor throw to first by Jung Ho Kang that went in the books as an error earlier in the inning), Gerrit Cole was downright dominant. Over seven innings pitched, Cole didn’t allow an earned run and struck out a season-high nine batters. He’s lasted at least six innings in nine out of the 11 starts he’s made this year. And in one of the defining moments of the season so far for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole struck out Brandon Belt with he bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth inning, and then got Brandon Crawford to ground into a double play, all with just a two-run lead. With an ERA of 1.90 and a WHIP of 1.08, Cole has pitched like the ace everyone has wanted him to become this season. It’s now safe to say that, barring injury, Cole should continue to pitch like one of the best pitchers in all of baseball moving forward.

Cole is currently tied for the lead in wins in the National league with eight, third in ERA, 12th in WHIP, sixth in strikeouts with 79, and seventh in WAR at 2.1. And while wins are now devalued as a statistic for measuring the quality of a pitcher, they still certainly help in the Cy Young voting, and Cole is certain to get many votes for that award this year if he continues to pitch at such a high level. Of course, he’ll have to outduel the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, and Shelby Miller, among others, for the award. Needless to say, Cole and his dominance are here to stay.

It’s now safe to say that, barring injury, Cole should continue to pitch like one of the best pitchers in all of baseball moving forward.

3. Mark Melancon is just fine

Does he still make us nervous? Yes. Will he still have the occasional bad outing? Yep. But Mark Melancon has turned around his early season struggles and has rebounded mightily well, to the tune of a 2.45 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 16 saves. His velocity has crept up a little into the low-90s and he hasn’t blown a save since the April 21st appearance against the Cubs when he gave up three runs as part of a bullpen implosion. He’s only given up runs in three of his 26 appearances this season, and the series against the Giants proved to be no exception. He pitched in each game, notching a save in all three while allowing no runs on two hits and no walks. He’s becoming the reliable piece of the backend of the bullpen with Tony Watson that he was last season.

His performance will be of great importance moving forward, in part because of the recent poor play of the middle relief options. Maybe the outcries to drop Melancon after his early season struggles were premature. At this point, the Pittsburgh Pirates no longer have an predicament at the closer position.

Hopefully the Pirates can continue their sweeping ways in Atlanta and eclipse the total number of sweeps that the team had in all of 2014.

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