Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 4/9/12

Bedard; Image credit Jared Wickerham

Even though the cross-state rival Phillies were without star players 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley, the Pirates’ found themselves staring down the double-barrel combo of SP Roy Halladay and SP Cliff Lee to kick off their 2012 campaign, not to mention a steadily-improving Vance Worley in game 3.

All told, the Pirates stood toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in baseball through 3 beautiful spring games at PNC Park, emerging from the series 2-1 on the young season.

The Pirates received encouraging starts from SPs Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens, and James McDonald, and some late-game heroics from OF Alex Presley and Andrew McCutchen, winning the final two games in their last at-bats.

Hot Starts

New addition 3B Casey McGehee had 2 key doubles in yesterday’s victory…McCutchen has a .916 OPS through 11 at bats…3B Pedro Alvarez is only hitting .167, but most importantly has his first home run of the season, and an .833 OPS through 2 games.

Ice Cold

While facing Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee can have this affect on any team, the next highest Pirate in terms of OPS is Presley at .615.  There’s little sense in getting worked up over small sample sizes, but the Pirates’ “big” offseason offensive additions have not started off well:

C Rod Barajas  1 for 7, .429 OPS

SS Clint Barmes  0 for 9, .100 OPS

Key Decision

Manager Clint Hurdle gambled on a late-inning move in yesterday’s victory that helped win the Pirates the series.  Pulling the left-handed hitting Alvarez- who already homered on the day- and pinch hitting righty rookie 1B Matt Hague against nasty Phillies’ short reliver Antonio Bastardo (L) paid off.  Hague singled with 2 outs to tie the game at 4 in the 8th, and McCutchen went on to win the game an inning later, doubling home pinch-runner Josh Harrison.

Up Next

The entire month of April is ridiculous schedule-wise for the Pirates, and should go a long way to showcasing the potential of this team.  There’s not a single weak team on the docket until mid-May!  A lot of late nights and groggy work mornings are in store for fans, as the Pirates kick off a 9-game Western roadtrip beginning on Tuesday against SP Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thanks for reading.  A few belated preview articles are still to come…

Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug

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