I haven’t talked much about the Pirates yet this season on here and maybe that’s me being selfish and not wanting to jinx their decent start, but after the series that just concluded I can’t steer away from talking about it.

The 2011 Pirates team is a hard one to figure out. They opened the season at Wrigley Field with a come-from-behind win over the Cubs that featured Neil Walker‘s grand slam, only the second Pirates player to ever hit a grand slam on Opening Day joining Roberto Clemente. The Pirates held the lead the next game until a major collapse in the eighth inning by reliever Evan Meek as the Cubs evened the series. But just when you thought that was a game to derail this team already, they rallied in the rubber match for two runs off Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning to give them a road series win.

The Buccos then flew out to St. Louis and took two-of-three from the Cardinals. Huh? Yes, the Pirates opened the season with two road series wins. That would have been unheard of last season when they won just a total of four series on the road all year.

So the Pirates came to Pittsburgh for the home opener against the Rockies with all the promise and hype from their great start on the road. And they absolutely laid in an egg. It started with the very first pitch from Paul Maholm, which was promptly lined into center field for a base hit, and ended with the Rockies cruising to a 7-1 win that included a rookie pitcher (Esmil Rogers) mowing down the Pirates lineup. There was pretty much nothing the Pirates did right in their opener. They rebounded the next night to win in extra innings (14 to be exact) and then dropped the next two games to Colorado in close games.

After a day off and a rainout against Milwaukee, the Pirates and Brewers finally played a couple of games though the Bucs offense basically took two days off. The Pirates were shut out in game one by Marcum and then blanked by Randy Wolf in the last game of the series. In fact, their only run of the two games came in the ninth inning of the last game on a wild pitch. Absolutely brutal.

The Pirates were sitting at 5-7 with a weekend four-game series in Cincinnati looming, so naturally I had the “this season is over” feeling. But the Pirates instead come out and take three-out-of-four from the first place Reds, winning another road series and getting back to .500 at 8-8. The offense produced six, seven and nine runs in the wins while the pitching staff saw TWO complete games (one from Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia each). If you’ve been a Pirates fan over the years, I don’t have to tell you how rare it is to see their pitching toss two CGs in one series.

Then came this three-game series against the Fish in Florida. The Pirates offense forgot to show up in the first two. I can understand the first game, they were shut down by Josh Johnson. He dominates most teams in the NL. But they also kept the bats in the hotel the next night against Ricky Nolasco and didn’t score five runs until they were already down 9-1 in the series finale. They were easily swept out of Florida while being outscored 21-5, including two shutouts. It was just a horrendous series to watch.

Heading into the season, I thought the one area of the team that would be fun to watch would be the hitting. While the big question everyone was wondering would be if the pitching would hold up. Well, 19 games into the season the pitching hasn’t been bad at all. Like I said, two complete games already is just one stat that is mind-boggling as a Pirates fan. They had just one all of last season.

But the alarming thing for me has been the complete disappearance of the bats out of nowhere. Basically being shut out two straight games against the Brewers at home, followed up by another two shutouts the next week against Florida will not cut it at all. You just can’t do that twice in a month. They cannot have those power outages all year if they are to stay around .500 this season.

So they stand at 8-11 this weekend with a homestand against the Nationals and defending champs Giants. My viewpoint on this season is to see significant improvement from the young talented core of McCutchen, Tabata, Alvarez, Walker, Hanrahan, Meek, Morton, McDonald, etc. And at times this month, this team just looks like different from other recent years, but then suddenly the floor drops out and it begins to look like every other year too. I honestly don’t know what to expect next from this group. I just hope they avoid the canyon (the massive free fall losing streak they usually get themselves in) and hover around .500 for most of the season.

Advertisements