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Statistically speaking: Pirates dominating bullpens in late innings

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 10:45 p.m.

The Pirates, holding the second-best team on base plus slugging percentage (.766) in the National League since May 1 and now featuring uber prospect Gregory Polanco's bat, will travel to Miami for the first time in 2014 to target the sculptures, night clubs and pools beyond Marlins Park's outfield walls.

Reaching those amenities won't be easy against a Miami rotation featuring many polished young arms, even with 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez mending from Tommy John surgery. Friday's scheduled starter, Nathan Eovaldi, and Henderson Alvarez (Sunday) rank among the NL's leaders in fewest walks and homers allowed. But if the Pirates can keep it close heading into the late innings, their clutch bats and shutdown bullpen should give them the upper hand.

The Pirates are hammering relievers this season, posting the NL's highest OPS during the seventh through ninth innings. Andrew McCutchen (.953 OPS during innings 7-9), Russell Martin (.932), Josh Harrison (.896) and Gaby Sanchez (.859) aren't having any trouble tattooing hard-throwing 'pen arms. Miami is also unloading on relievers, with Giancarlo Stanton (1.022), Marcell Ozuna (.937), Reed Johnson (.904) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.863) doing the most damage.

Team OPS Innings 7-9

Pirates .746

Nationals .714

Marlins .712

Diamondbacks .708

Rockies .707

NL Avg. .665

Source: Baseball-Reference

While both clubs rake in the late frames, only the Pirates' bullpen rises to the occasion by suffocating opposing lineups in tight situations. Bucs relievers rank fourth in the National League in Win Probability Added (WPA), which estimates how much a player helps or hurts his team's chances of emerging victorious. The Marlins, by contrast, place 12th in the NL in WPA.

Pitcher WPA

Tony Watson +2.00

Mark Melancon +0.68

Jared Hughes +0.34

Justin Wilson +0.34

Source: Fangraphs

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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