If baseball is a game of numbers then three is certainly the magic number. 90 feet from base to base, 60 feet six inches from the pitcher's mound to home plate, 162 games in a season, nine players on the field, all divisible by three to create America's favorite pastime.
Three games into the 2013 season the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in a familiar position, below .500. Last season's Bucs looked to be the ones to finally break the team's abysmal streak of seasons finishing under .500, which now sits at 20 years. 99 games into the season, the team was 15 games above .500 with a record of 57 wins and 42 loses, only to fall flat and finish with a record of 79 and 83.
If the Pirates are going to finish above .500 they will need to win three more games than last year's team. Here are the three additions to the 2013 Pirates that will make a one game difference.
1) Russell Martin was signed as a free agent after playing the last two seasons in the Bronx. Last year Martin hit 21 home runs for the Yankees to go along with 53 RBI in a season which many would consider to be the worst of his career statistically. A Pirates' catcher has never hit 20 homeruns in a season. Martin is hitless in three games this year but has been stellar defensively. If Martin is going to make a one game difference he needs to have a similar year offensively to what he accomplished last season and remain reliable behind the plate.
2) Wandy Rodriguez got off to a great start in his first full season as a Pirate by allowing only 2 hits in 6.2 innings of shutout ball against the Chicago Cubs. Many Pirates fans were too disgusted by the teams fall from grace last year to realize that in his last seven starts, Rodriguez went 4-0 allowing only 13 runs over 41.2 innings. Rodriguez has been incredibly consistent throughout his Major League career, pitching mostly for bad Astros' teams. With a little bit of run support, Rodriguez could be in line for his best year yet.
3) Starling Marté made his long awaited Pirates debut last year in late July. In all three games this season, Marté has been batting in the leadoff spot although he is not a typical leadoff hitter. Marté's speed is what makes him so attractive batting number one in the order but he strikes out far too often and rarely walks. If the Pirates new hitting coach, Jay Bell, can help Marté develop some plate discipline, fans can expect him to become one of the most productive players in the lineup.
If these three players don't perform, the Pirates will not finish the 2013 season above .500 resulting in 21 straight years of losing which, of course, is divisible by three.