Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said of his team about the first month of the season that “…we were a good team playing mediocre baseball.”
While that was clearly true for most of the team, with almost the whole lineup playing with cold bats for the beginning of the season, the starters on the mound were the exception.
With high expectations on the Pirates after another playoff birth last season, there was no reason to expect that the high powered offense would be almost non-existent through the first month of the season.
As May rolled around, the Bucs two top hitters, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, had batting averages below .200, a far cry from their .300 plus averages of last season.
The highly touted superstar out of Korea, Jung-Ho Kang, struggled mightily, adjusting to the game on American soil. The rest of the lineup was not much better, struggling to get any hits, let alone get hits with runners in scoring position.
In a game in early April, the Pirates left 18 on base in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
With the offense struggling to get hits, that placed a tremendous weight on the starters.
The pressure was on them to give the team a chance to win a low scoring pitching duel. They did just that, with their youngest arm leading the way.
Through the first two months of the season it seems as if Gerrit Cole can almost do no wrong.
Right now, he leads the National League in with 9 wins and an earned run average of 1.73, and shows no signs of letting up soon.
Cole has quickly turned into the club ace, but that’s no knock against the rest of the rotation.
A.J. Burnett has returned to the Pirates after a forgettable year with the Philadelphia Phillies, and has outperformed the expectations with his soon to be retired arm, with an ERA just recently dropping to 2.11.
Francisco Liriano, along with the freshly rehabbed Charlie Morton, are both at the top of their games. Liriano has been routinely striking out 10 plus, a game, and Morton’s sinker ball has been getting him the ground-outs he need.
If Jeff Locke can find some consistency on the mound and give the team winnable games, this rotation will rival that of any in the league.
But, in the past month, the bats have caught up to the pitching and started do their part.
It seemingly started in a series in Philadelphia where both Harrison and McCutchen broke out of their slumps, shooting their averages from the .170’s to just below .300 in less than a month.
Kang has also caught fire after adjusting to the American game, and has shown why he was 5- time all-star in Korea.
They rest of the team followed suit in the batter’s box, and now are chasing the Cardinals for the division lead.
If this rotation can keep throwing how they are, and the bats prove to consistently hit throughout the lineup, this team will be a scary sight for any team come October, as long as they don’t play “mediocre baseball.”
Ernecoff is a THS grad, currently enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. Ernecoff is also an avid Pittsburgh fan.