The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the rubber-match against the San Francisco Giants with hopes of winning their second-straight series, something they hadn’t done since the first two series of the season. Led by Gerrit Cole and some early offense, they were able to get it done. After a horrid start to the season, it looks like the Bucs might have rediscovered their winning ways of 2013.
After a 4-3 victory against the Giants, the Pirates have now won four of their previous six games. There are a variety of reasons behind this, but the most obvious reason has been the strong starts from their pitchers recently. On Tuesday night, the Pirates were able to get eight strong innings out of Charlie Morton. Morton would allow just one run (unearned) on three hits and two walks while striking out three. On Wednesday, Cole pitched eight more innings for the Pirates, allowing three runs on seven hits, one walk and seven punch-outs. It was the first time since 2007 that the Pirates got two straight eight-inning starts from their pitchers.
Another way the Pirates have gotten better results in the win-loss column has been the great play from outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. In the last seven days, Marte has hit .400 with a double, a triple and a home run. Oh, and don’t look now, but while he isn’t having the flashy starts to the 2014 season like Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton, McCutchen is certainly playing at an MVP-level. In 160 plate appearances, McCutchen is hitting .321/.431/.519 with a 168 wRC+. He has also hit four home runs and stolen four bases. Even more remarkable, however, is that he is walking in 16.3 percent of his plate appearances. He has as many walks as he does strikeouts.
If the Pirates can continue to build off of the strong starts from their starting pitchers and the excellent play of their young outfielders, they will be able to work their way back into the National League Central race. It won’t be a quick comeback and it will take some time, but a team that looked out of it last week should just be happy to be back in the conversation.