Pittsburgh Pirates: Starting Pitching Continues to Shine in Four-Game Sweep of the Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates
Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their strong start to the season, the team's starting rotation was once again a catalyst in their four-game sweep of the Reds

The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to be the talk of the baseball world. After sweeping a four-game series at PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates have won a MLB high seven games in a row. This seven game winning streak puts the Pirates at 16-7, with their 16 wins being the most in the National League.

Following the sweep, the Pirates are now 4-2-1 in the seven series they have played this season. This includes a trio of series sweeps, with this sweep of the Reds being the first one that has come at PNC Park.

Monday the Pirates will enjoy a well deserved day off. This day off comes after the Pirates played 17 games in 17 days, going 12-5 in these 17 games. Following the day off the Pirates will face a big test when they start a three-game series at PNC Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, first, let's look back at their series sweep of the Reds which was driven by the starting rotation.

Roansy Contreras got the series started for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night. Marking his third strong start in four trips to the mound this season, Contreras allowed 1 run on five hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched. Contreras continues to look like a budding top of the rotation arm for the Pirates.

It was Mitch Keller's turn in game two on Friday. The Pirate ace pitched 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on four htis, a walk, and five strikeouts.

Saturday night the quality start streak ended. However, that does not mean that Rich Hill pitched poorly. In 5 innings pitched, Hill allowed a run on six hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. Had it not been for Hill's pitch count, which was partially inflated due to a Ji Hwan Bae error, he likely would have gone 6 innings to get the streak alive.

Sunday afternoon Vince Velasquez was looking to start a new quality start streak. Velasquez did not just do that, he turned in his best start as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Velasquez pitched 7 scoreless innings and struck out 10 while generating 15 swings-and-misses.

This series was one in which the Pirates needed their pitching staff to step up. The Pirates scored 4 runs in the 1st inning on series opener on Thursday night. In the final 31 innings of the series, the Pirates scored just 8 runs.

With the offense stuck in a rut the Pirates needed their starting pitching to step up to the plate against the Reds. The starting rotation did just that, setting the tone in each of the four Pirate victories.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are now up to 13 straight games in which their starting pitcher has pitched at least 5 innings, with their starter going at least 6 innings in 12 of those 13 games. Pirate starters have allowed 3 earned runs or less in all 13 of these games, and 2 earned runs or loss in 12 of the 13.

Getting a stretch like this out of a starting rotation is huge for a team at any point in a season. It is even bigger when it occurs in April. Getting innings out of a starting rotation early in the season helps to save a bullpen and keep it fresh. Undoubtedly, the work of the rotation is a big reason why the Pirate bullpen has been so successful this season.

Entering play on Monday, Pirate starting pitchers had logged 128 innings. This is good for the second most innings pitched by a starting rotation in all of baseball behind just the San Diego Padres. The strong work from the starting rotation is a big reason why the Pirates swept their four-game series against the Reds. If this continues, so will the winning ways of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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