Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 5/28/12

(Opening image credit Jared Wickerham, AP)

If there’s one thing that will make a Pirate fan’s heart flutter regardless of other seasonal circumstances, it’s an absolute beatdown of the dastardly Chicago Cubs. Ever since I attended a mid-September full 3-game homestand a few years ago- only to see Cubs’ fans outnumber Pirates’ fans 2:1, besmirching beautiful PNC Park with their “Here We Go Cubbies!” chant- I have loathed this team.

1. Letting the Pirates push your losing streak from 9 games to 12? Oh yeah.

2. Currently double the amount of losses as wins? Mmmm-hmm.

3. Already 11 games back in the weak NL Central? Delicious.

4. Boasting all of the following contract albatrosses? Divine.

36-year old Alfonso Soriano: $19,000,000

35-year old Ryan Dempster: $14,000,000

5. Speaking of questionable contracts, it will be interesting to see whether the Cubs get value out of SP Matt Garza ($9,500,000) and RP Carlos Marmol ($7,700,000). Considering his ERA+ prior to this year (108 career vs. 91 in 2012), Garza is an above-average SP, who threw at least 184 IP in his 4 years in Tampa Bay. That’s worth something in today’s MLB. But at the same time, he’s never been more than a solid #3 starter. Marmol has some of the most electric stuff in the game, and has averaged nearly 12 K/9 throughout his career! But he’s also wildly erratic (especially for a closer) and actually walked more batters (16) than he had strikeouts (12), prior to being DL’d this year.

These 3 games were an utter pony-pounding, and they couldn’t have happened to a more deserving opponent.

The Pirates’ carried the momentum from their series-sweeping 10-4 victory over Chicago into a series-opening 4-0 victory over the Division-leading Cincinnati Reds on Memorial Day. My main man SP James McDonald continues to be worth the price of admission, raising his 2012 statline to 3-2, with a 2.51 ERA and 58 K in 57.1 IP. To grind for 8 straight innings on a brutally humid Monday afternoon was impressive, and the Reds never really threatened for the latter half of the game.

From watching today’s matchup, I believe 2 things are equally true:

1. The Reds really aren’t a great team, and would struggle to win a Division outside of the NL Central.

2. However, the Reds are clearly superior talent-wise to the Pirates, and should have little trouble maintaining a cushion over them as the season progresses.

Still, this is fun while it’s lasting. The Pirates are winning with some great pitching and ugly offense, but at the end of the day, they’ve climbed back up to .500, and are within 3 games of the Reds with 2 more shots to narrow that gap even further. Here’s hoping for 5 in a row on Tuesday. Thanks for reading.

Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug

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