Are The Pittsburgh Pirates Bats Heating Up?
The Pittsburgh Pirates finished off an impressive 3 game sweep of my dark-horse favorites to contend for the World Series, the Cincinnati Reds. The series provided a spark for the Pirates and it is looking as if the bats are about the come to the level the pitching has been at to open the season. It seems as if the bats are heating up!
In game one of the series on Friday night, Pirates ace A.J. Burnett went up against the Reds, Mike Leake in what figured to be a good game to kick off the series. For Leake, it was not so good, as he allowed 10 hits and coughed up 5 earned runs in 6 innings of work. Burnett went 6 as well, but only gave up 3 earned runs which gave him the quality start, but was only able to go 6 due to a high pitch count. From then on in, it was a battle of the bullpens as Tony Watson came into the game only to give 2 runs right back to the Reds and make it a 5-5 ball game late. J.J. Hoover came on to pitch the bottom of the 7th inning but proceeded to surrender 2 hits and a 6th run, which turned out to be the game winner as Andrew McCutchen delivered a solo homer off of Hoover, whose record has already dipped to 0-3 out of the bullpen for Cincinnati. A welcome sight for Pirates fans was the fact every starter chipped in with a hit, while some like Neil Walker and Garrett Jones contributed 2 hits a piece. Its a welcome sight for Pirates fans because of how miserable the offense has been with the bat to this point. Regardless, the Pirates went on to win this game 6-5 and Jason Grilli nailed his 4th save of the season.
Saturday nights affair between the Pirates and Reds featured Reds ace Johnny Cueto match up against Jeff Locke. Cueto was dealing throughout the first 4 innings and got an out in the 5th before he was pulled due to a pain in his triceps. The Reds bullpen has to be utilized only 4.1 innings into the ball game and the Pirates took over from there. Alfredo Simon came out of the bullpen in long relief to spell the injured Cueto and allowed 2 runs to cross. That was enough for Pirates starter Jeff Locke and the Pirates bullpen to hold a lead and give Locke his first win of the season. Locke was only mediocre however, as he only managed 5 innings of work but walked 4 Reds batters. Travis Snider and Clint Barmes both had a hit each which was nice to see but after managing to get a hit Friday, Russell Martin had another woeful day at the plate going hitless in 4 at bats. Martin has looked awful at the plate for Pittsburgh and need him to turn it around soon, as his power behind the plate is too valuable to go through stretches like this. Pittsburgh won game 2 and ensured themselves a series victory over their NL Central rival Reds.
Game 3 of the series featured spot starter Phil Irwin, who was starting in place of Wandy Rodriguez. The Reds sent Mat Latos to the hill in hopes of salvaging a game in the 3 game series at PNC Park. It looked early as if it would be a very long day for the Pirates are starter Phil Irwin gave up 5 runs while walking 4 in 4.2 innings of work. Usually when you give Latos 5 runs to play with the game is done. But these Pirates are a feisty bunch. In 6.2 innings pitched, Latos gave up 9 hits and 3 runs, and he left with the lead. The Reds bullpen however, did not come to play. Logan Ondrusek, Manny Parra, and Jonathan Broxton teamed up in relief of Latos, only to give the Pirates the lead back (many of the runs coming against Broxton). Broxton gave up 6 runs in his .2 inning pitched. The Pirates hit the bullpen hard as back up catcher Michael McKenry and Starling Marte both hit two run homers to propel the Pirates to a 10-7 victory. Even though he gave up a run on 3 hits, reliever Jared Hughes was credited with the W in relief for the Pirates.
Overall, a sweep is very encouraging. A sweep over a division rival in the Reds is even more impressive and encouraging for the Pirates who may finally be getting the bats going. It was a great series for the struggling Pirates offense and they hit Reds pitching enough to sweep them away in impressive style. Reds game 2 starter, Johnny Cueto was placed on the 15 Day DL today after leaving Saturday`s ball game with an injury. If the bats are heating up for the Pirates, expect for them to play some tough, good ball games this week, with a 3 game series against the St. Louis Cardinals and a 4 games series with the Atlanta Braves.