Crazy to think, but this past week the Pirates put on another streak, sweeping the Astros and taking a series in St. Louis, ensuring that the Pirates stayed ahead in the Central standings. Even with the series opening loss to the Giants, Pittsburgh is still a game clear of the Reds and 2.5 up on the Cards who are in third.
The Pirates’ bats have officially woken up and those horrible performances in April and May are a distant memory to be replaced by Pedro Alvarez smashing homers out of PNC Park’s center field wall (yes the second one). Even better, the Pirates have found a way to get strong outings out of Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens is looking like the 2011 starter who frustrated hitters and ate innings.
This is the dream come true. The Bucs are nine games over the .500 mark and were 10 games over with a very real chance of entering the break 11 games over the .500 line. This team, whether it’s the Zoltan or Hurdle’s zen way, or even A.J. Burnett’s vertan presence, have found a way to string together wins and avoid losing streaks. This team is exciting, young, and completely oblvious to anyone who reminds them they play for a Pirates team that has not won a series since ’79 or finished .500 since ’92.
The series against the Giants is somewhat of a listmus test seeing that the Giants are a playoff team with great pitching and solid hitting all the way through. San Fran is the kind of team that the Pirates would struggle with and last night’s game was extremely promising. The Pirates probably could have won the game if Erik Bedard’s struggles had not continued but a bad fourth inning doomed the Bucs.
Last night’s foreshadowed the issues the Pirates have moving into the second half. Erik Bedard has never really impressed me this season aside from Opening Day and he now doesn’t even look like a starter. He can’t find the strike zone and the Pirates need another starter to ease the innings of Bedard, Burnett, and Correia.
The Pirates also have an issue with outfielders. Alex Presley, an average player at best, is now out with a concussion. Gorkys Hernandez is very replaceable and not someone who can be an everyday MLB starter. Garrett Jones doesn’t play against southpaws and will be splitting time at first with Casey McGehee. Bottom line: Starling Marte needs to come up. Presley, Marte, and McCutchen is a very palatable outfield and switching Presley for Jones is even better.