Found August 14, 2013 on
Fox Sports Midwest:
ST. LOUIS -- There is little doubt these Pirates are much improved over the 2012 edition. Star hitters Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez are among those to benefit from another year of experience. Their bullpen's 2.73 ERA is the club's lowest since 1982, and the rotation's 3.38 ERA is the best since 1984.
And, oh yeah, they lead the NL Central with a 70-48 record that is third-best in the majors entering their game Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
Surely, this will be the year the Pirates halt the franchise's streak of losing seasons, which at 20 is the longest ever in U.S. major sports. All they need is to finish no worse than 12-32 to have their first winning season since Barry Bonds was manning left field and Jim Leyland was their manager.
The way the Pirates were playing until their four-game losing streak, they were on pace to clinch a winning season well before Labor Day. With a hot streak, they could be seeking victory No. 82 about the time they play host to the Cardinals in the last weekend of August.
But like they insisted last August when they visited the Cardinals, the Pirates have their sights set higher than a winning record. In fact, McCutchen says the day they clinch a winning season will not result in any semblance of a clubhouse celebration.
"We'll let SportsCenter and all them take care of that," McCutchen said Monday. "That's not what we're shooting for. It's not like we got 82 wins, now we can give up. We're pushing for a goal, and that's trying to win a championship."
No team knows better than the Cardinals that the Pirates are capable. Pittsburgh still owns the season series, 7-4, even after the Cardinals have won the past two meetings.
McCutchen says these Pirates are better than last year because of lessons learned from failures over the past two second halves.
"A lot of our success (in the 2012 and 2011 first halves) may have been somewhat of a surprise to us," McCutchen said. "With everything going on around us and people talking about us, we were adding pressure on ourselves when we weren't trying to. This year is more, OK, now we know how to handle those situations."
A talent upgrade hasn't hurt, either. Three offseason acquisitions -- catcher Russell Martin, lefty starter Francisco Liriano and reliever Mark Melancon -- all have played huge roles for the team. Youngsters such as Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole and outfielder Starling Marte also have made a big difference.
Unlike the past two seasons when McCutchen faded down the stretch after strong starts, he has waited until the second half to emerge as an MVP candidate. While Alvarez still isn't hitting his weight in average, his 28 homers are second most in the NL.
And no doubt, the experience of the past two years is paying off.
"We've been through some stuff," McCutchen said. "We're older, wiser, and with experience comes success. We're starting to have that success."
Still, it should be pointed out that despite their winning ways this season, the Pirates have been almost this close before. They are only two games ahead of last year's winning pace at the same point in the season, when they staggered to a 14-30 finish and wound up four games south of .500. This time around, they need to go just 12-32 to secure a winning season.
As likely as that seems, given the failures of their past two Septembers, some sort of celebration would seem to be in order when they officially and finally end their losing ways.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.
BEST OF MAXIM
Andrew Lambo has been officially called up. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have officially called up Andrew Lambo, and have optioned Alex Presley to Triple-A. The Pirates had to add Lambo to the 40-man roster, although no corresponding move was needed since there was an open spot.
Moving Presley down made sense, as the Pirates can’t carry two bench outfielders...
The Pittsburgh Pirates made a bunch of minor league moves today and at least one more should be announced soon due to roster space. The biggest name moved today was Tyler Waldron, who was injured earlier in the season and has been pitching for Bradenton since he returned three weeks ago. Also moving to Altoona from Indianapolis was catcher Ali Solis, who was demoted to make room...
The two top pitchers in the Pirates minor league system will take the mound tonight. Jameson Taillon will take the mound for Indianapolis for the third time, while Tyler Glasnow gets the start for West Virginia. Zack Dodson also goes for the first time since his seven no-hit innings last week. For a look at the possible starters over the next few weeks, please check out our Probable...
Andrew Lambo is free.
Andrew Lambo is finally free. The Pirates will call the right fielder up today after watching him hit 31 homers in the minors this year. Lambo became the first Pirates minor leaguer to do that since Steve Pearce in 2007. The story of how Lambo got to this point isn’t a traditional prospect story. He was formerly a top prospect, saw his stock fall, saw that...
The Pirates needed Francisco Liriano to be a stopper, and he came up huge. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Last night’s loss was a tough loss. The Pirates were coming off a three game sweep against the Colorado Rockies. They had a three game lead in the NL Central over the St. Louis Cardinals, with a big three game series against the Cardinals coming up. Taking the first game against...
For a season preview of the Pittsburgh Pirates two Dominican Summer League teams, check out our article here. For a recap of the DSL All-Star game, check out our article here. Throughout the year, we will provide the recaps of both teams, as well as highlight one player each day.
Result: Pirates 5, Marlins 4 in 10 innings
Starting Pitcher: Jose Regalado, RHP...
Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten and the bottom five starts are broken down below the chart. The top five short season pitchers are also highlighted in a separate group, since most of those guys only go 4-5 innings max, and don’t have a good chance of being highlighted in the top ten. The rankings include...
I don't think there's really a whole lot to say about this game. AJ Burnett hit the wall really early and blew a 4-0 lead, then Clint Hurdle did some silly things. The Pirates' bullpen pitched really well and kept them in the game, but the offense had trouble with the Cardinals' bullpen again, and so the Pirates lost.
I'm not actually hugely concerned with...
After one day of relief and joy, Pirate fans are back in a foul mood again after another extra inning loss to the Cardinals on Thursday. The Bucs botched another lead and threw away some chances late in the game, and eventually suffered their second walk off loss in three days. The loss drops their lead back to two games in the Central, and the Reds continue to close in at just two...
I’d say that qualifies as a pretty good bounce back performance – for the Pirates as a team and especially for Francisco Liriano.
The Bucco ace continues to thrive in his role as a “stopper” – his numbers when the Bucs need a win have been simply unreal, and they got even better on Wednesday when he took the ball in hopes of ending a four game losing streak. And of course...
ST. LOUIS -- With two more series to come with the Pirates after this week, this upcoming three-game set hardly is a must-win for the Cardinals in the race for the NL Central. Only three games separate the teams heading into Tuesday night.
But in the race for respect, the Cardinals could use a couple of victories. Their struggles against Pittsburgh are not limited to this season...
The Pirates' first real test as contenders this year was the five-game set against the Cardinals at PNC Park two weeks ago, and the Pirates passed that test with flying colors. As a result, the Bucs have been in first place for two full weeks now. What their success in that series has earned them is this: another big series, this time on the road in St. Louis. This time, neither...
Losses like last night’s are what give me pause. The Pirates snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s too common. It’s too familiar. It needs to stop immediately. Starling Marte should be benched. At least one game. These guys should all be pretty ashamed of last night’s loss though, not just Marte. Andrew McCutchen,…
I got to work this morning with an e-mail from my dad waiting for me, telling me that maybe last night's game was just one game, but that everyone that watched it last night is cranky this morning and that it's a game that nobody will forget anytime soon. He talked about the time Matt Alou dropped a similar fly ball 40+ years ago and how he's never forgotten it. He also...