Russell Martin hits a game-winning RBI single in the 14th inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates break out the brooms and sweep the Milwaukee Brewers in a 2-1 victory on Sunday.
With their victory over the Brewers, the Pirates move to 51-30 on the season and take a 2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central hunt for October.
Despite the Pirates success, some people are still hesitant to buy in. Some people are still waiting for the collapse. After over 20 losing seasons and two late season collapses, it is understandable why some are hesitant to believe.
With Sunday’s extra innings win over the Brewers, who have owned the Pirates in previous seasons, the Pirates tied a franchise best record through 81 games. Who was the other team to do it? The 1971 World Series Champions and the 72′ Nation League East Champions.
The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates are different from previous years. They definitely have depth in their starting rotation and their bullpen.
Currently, the Pirates’ starting rotation is made up of Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jeanmar Gomez, and Francisco Liriano. Not a bad group of guys to lead the way. Missing from the rotation are veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez.
If Burnett and Rodriguez get healthy, Pittsburgh will face the question of what to do with seven starters.
The Pirates also have some more depth with the bat this season. Andrew McCutchen is not the only go-to man. Every player in the Pirates lineup has contributed and came through at some point this season.
It may have been Martin’s walk off on Sunday against the Brewers, or maybe it was Brandon Inge back in May.
A red-hot Pedro Alvarez has also been a key to the Pirates success thus far. Alvarez has contributed nicely this season with his glove, but he has led the Pirates in the month of June. Alvarez hit his 20th home run of the season against the Brewers in Sunday’s win. That was his 10th homer of the month with a .330 batting average.
The Pirates have faced so many obstacles in the season. Their is still plenty of time to have an epic collapse, but this team battles. Every obstacle they are thrown, they find a way to overcome it.
The Atlanta Braves swept the the Pirates in early June; they could have fell apart easily. Instead, they bounced back and took 2-of-3 against the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the defending Champion San Francisco Giants.
Currently, Pittsburgh is on a nine game winning streak, sweeping the Brewers, Angels, and Mariners.
The Pirates have also been faced with the starting pitching carousel. Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano, and Jeff Karstens all began the season on the DL. When Jonathan Sanchez fanned in the starting rotation, Jeanmar Gomez stepped in and pitched marvelous. He gave the Pirates a fighting chance every night he took the mound.
Liriano returned and has been brilliant; Morton has also appeared to bring his electric stuff.
Brandon Cumpton, who was an unknown to most Pirates’ fans, came up and pitched two good games. He recorded no decisions in both outings, but he did a good job.
Then there is Gerrit Cole who has been phenomenal in his first 4 major league starts. Cole has had great control and his fast ball has topped 101 on the gun quite a few times.
Jeff Locke was not even a lock to be in the Pirates’ rotation this past spring. Now, he is second in the NL with a 2.06 ERA. Locke has been the backbone for the Pirates rotation the first half of the season.
No one can forget the Shark Tank. The self-named bullpen comes in night in and night out and shuts down teams. They are one of the best, if not the best bullpen, in baseball. The dynamic duo of Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli are a force to behold. Grilli leads the NL with 27 saves in 28 attempts.
This team never backs down. When pitching falters, the bats pick them up. When the bats are slumping, the pitching shuts down teams. No deficit is too much for them to overcome. They have truly earned the name the “Battlin Buccos”.
Many can still doubt this team, but the Pittsburgh Pirates just may be the real deal.