Overshadowed by Pens' playoff run, Pirates off to best start since 1991 season
MILWAUKEE — For those who've been too tied up following the Penguins' run in the Stanley Cup playoffs to notice, the Pirates would like to notify you of their status: They're off to their best start since Barry Bonds was patrolling left field in Three Rivers Stadium.
The Pirates are authoring their own compelling story this spring, off to a 31-19 start, their best since 1991. The club has not had a winning season or made the postseason since 1992.
The Pirates have won 14 of their past 19 games to improve to 12 games over .500.
Will the Pirates give Pittsburgh must-see entertainment once the Penguins' season is over? The next four weeks could be telling as the Pirates play 17 of their next 23 games against clubs that are in first place or within a half-game of first place, including four consecutive games against the Tigers beginning at 1:05 p.m. Monday. The Pirates will play two games in Detroit before returning home to host the Tigers in a two-game series beginning on Wednesday.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that the key for his club to sustain its performance is mental focus.
“We're just trying to make sure we are getting better every day,” Hurdle said. “Eliminate the distractions and control the grind. That's where our focus has been.”
The Pirates could end a two-decade streak of futility thanks to outstanding pitching. The Pirates owned Major League Baseball's second best ERA, 3.22, entering Sunday's games.
Veteran starters A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez have provided the Pirates with consistent performance. Young lefty Jeff Locke has been a pleasant surprise for the club, posting a 2.54 ERA, and free-agent acquisition Francisco Liriano has been outstanding in his first three starts, allowing two runs in 18 innings. Liriano matches up with Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Monday.
Even better than the starting pitching has been the relief pitching. The Pirates are 29-0 when leading after eight innings this season.
Pirates closer Jason Grilli picked up his league-best 20th save on Sunday. Grilli said the Pirates' success has been a team effort, with contributions spread throughout the roster and production not solely concentrated on the stat lines of stars such as Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
“We just have to play fundamental baseball, not try to overanalyze it,” Grilli said of the key to sustaining early success. “It's truly been fun. It's been somebody different every day. It's been awesome.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
- McCullers’, McLendon’s prowess in clogging trenches crucial to Steelers defense
- Reds solve Cole, stave off Pirates’ 9th-inning rally
- Starting 9: Examining Pirates’ deadline decisions
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Roman Catholic Church in midst of culture clash over gays
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site