MLB

Pitching Will Need to Continue Carrying Pittsburgh Pirates Through 2014 Season

Pittsburgh Pirates Charlie Morton

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs played a weird game on Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The Pirates won in 16 innings, and the team also set the record for longest home game in franchise history. The previous record had been five hours and 49 minutes; Wednesday night’s game lasted five hours and 55 minutes.

It’s odd that I’m about to applaud the Pirates’ pitching staff after a game in which their closer, Jason Grilli, blew a save, but they battled like crazy for 16 innings. The Cubs’ pitching staff battled just as much, actually, but the Pirates’ pitching is clearly superior this season.

The starting pitcher for the Pirates, Charlie Morton, looked great in his first start of the 2014 regular season. Morton went six innings without allowing a run while giving up just four hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Of his 84 total pitches, 56 were for strikes. He left the game in line for a win, but unlike last year when the bullpen almost always shut down the opposing team’s offense, the Cubs got to the Pirates’ bullpen in the late innings.

In 2013, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli were the most formidable eight-ninth inning combination in baseball. They won’t be terrible this season, but expecting them to repeat their 2013 season would be foolish. Expect some serious regression from the duo. On Wednesday night, the regression began, as both Melancon and Grilli gave up an earned run in their respective inning. The only other run the Bucs would give up in the game would come in the 12th inning against Jeanmar Gomez.

The Pirates are just two games into the season, but it is already becoming painfully obvious that the offense is going to be lacking again this season, forcing the team to rely far too heavily on its pitching staff. In 16 innings, their offense managed just eight hits and four runs. Luckily for the Bucs, they have enough solid arms to carry the team for the majority of the season. However, the offense will need to show up at some point if the Pirates hope to contend again this year.

Nonetheless, the Pirates are 2-0 and sit alone atop the standings in the National League Central division. Baseball is all about scoring one more run than the opposing team, and the Pirates have done just that, winning 1-0 on Monday and 4-3 on early Thursday morning. The 16 inning game on Wednesday had a bit of everything — great defense, bad defense, great pitching, poor offense and plenty of extended pauses for the newly implemented instant replay system. Hopefully the next 160 games will be as interesting as this one was.

Zach Morrison is a Pirates writer for RantSports.com. You can follow Zach on Twitter @Zach_Morrison1 and you can add him to your circles on Google+.