The Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t letting anything get in the way of winning games.
Not their ace going down with a grade 1 calf tear. Not Wandy sitting out with forearm tightness. Not two other starting pitchers on the DL.
These Pirates have something special that the last two campaigns have lacked: the will to win games that they have no business winning. Whereas in leagues like the NBA teams can win on talent alone, baseball is far from that formula. It requires a desire amongst every member of the clubhouse, from star center fielders to bench players to want to win games. If you don’t believe me, check out the LA Dodgers’ record and explain to me how talent is the sole driver to winning baseball games.
No, these Pirates are different. They get timely hitting. (See Travis Snider’s grand slam against the cubs). They get timely pitching. They are on the better side of 1-0 and 2-1 games that they have not had the luxury of winning in year’s prior. It stems from a belief inside the locker room that they can win any game against any team. Every player trusts the other 24 guys to come up with the clutch play to boost the team. I don’t know exactly what it is, but if I’m pointing the finger at any one player who has totally changed the dynamic of the team, I’m looking at you, Russell Martin.
Russell Martin has brought stability to a position that has been awful at times for the Bucs. Rod Barajas seemed like a nice guy and all but let’s just say his better days were behind him, which weren’t the greatest of days. Offense, Defense, and Pitching have seen a boost with him behind the plate. Pitchers love the game he calls. He leads the NL in percent of base stealers thrown out. He brings feistiness to the team that is unparalleled. And the guy is just a likeable, class act in post game interviews, so I’d imagine he’s one of the more popular guys in the locker room. Fantastic acquisition, Neal Huntington.
In addition, I’d like to point out that Jeff Locke is officially a beast. The first few games he pitched like this, I thought to myself “this guy will come back down to earth.” I no longer feel this way. His location is unbelievable. His two-seamer freezes right handed hitters, and his curve falls off the table. He’s generated more groundball outs than anyone on our staff. If there’s anyone that can lead this staff while A.J. heals, it’s going to be Locke.
This team is special. Maybe not division-winning special (have you seen the Cards lately?), but I certainly would put us in one of the wild card spots if I were a betting man.
After a tough stretch in Atlanta, the Battlin’ Bucs took two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley, and did the same against the Giants and Dodgers at home this past week to raise their record to 41-28, 13 games over .500 nearly halfway through the rigorous MLB season.
Now, the Pirates face a very tough test in the next seven days. They face off against the division rival Cincinnati Reds in a four game series in Cinci. This will be the biggest challenge of the season so far. The Pirates currently sit a half game back of the Reds in the NL Central. Even a split would be a great escape. They then travel to Anaheim for a three-game series against the Angels, who sit at a disappointing 30-39, but certainly have the firepower to make a second-half playoff push.
If the Buccos can escape this week at a 4-3 clip, my confidence will be even higher and theirs will be too.
Tune in tonight at 7:05 to see Francisco Liriano (5-2, 2.36 ERA) face off against the excellent right-hander Mike Leake (6-3 2.76 ERA) who has been a lights out 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in his last six starts. Should be a pitching battle.