If some Pittsburgh Pirates fans are holding back from getting excited about this year, you can’t blame them.
A year ago today, the Buccos were 44-41. Things did not go well from there, as Pittsburgh finished the year with 90 losses for the seventh-straight season. The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992, the same year Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper was born.
Who knows if Clint Hurdle’s club will break the longest streak of futility in all of sports, but they’re certainly looking the part of contenders in 2012. With a 2-0 win over the Houston Astros Thursday night, the Pirates improved to 46-36 and sit atop the National League Central standings.
Yes, it’s probably too early to be scoreboard watching, but you’ll have to excuse any giddy Pirates fans staying up late tonight to see if the San Diego Padres can beat the Cincinnati Reds and give Pittsburgh a two-game lead. The Pirates faithful who have allowed themselves to get excited deserve to have a little fun.
The victory marked the team’s first four-game series sweep since 2006 and was their eighth win in their past 10 games. Pittsburgh is on an extended hot streak, as they’ve gone on a 20-11 run since the start of June.
Jeff Karstens pitched eight shutout innings, striking out eight while giving up four hits and just one walk. He threw just 89 pitches, 62 for strikes. Joel Hanrahan picked up his 22 save of the season.
It was another great pitching performance for the Pirates, who have the fifth-best team ERA in all of baseball at 3.50. The bullpen has been sterling, as Pittsburgh is 37-0 when leading after seven innings.
The Pirates have been particularly good at PNC Park, posting a 27-13 record to give them the best home mark in baseball. Pittsburgh hosts the San Francisco Giants this weekend before taking four games off for the All-Star Break.