Jamie Gatlin | July 12th, 2019
Coming into the season the Pirates were expected to rebuild. In one of the best divisions in baseball, the Pirates were predicted by many to finish fourth. So far, they have battled seemingly never-ending injuries and surpassed expectations. Over the last past two weeks, they faced teams currently in the playoff picture and excelled. With a lot of baseball left, this team is in a good position to succeed in a division still up for grabs.
Through eighty-nine games, the Pirates have been defined by how they have dealt with adversity. Every single member of the rotation has missed significant time due to injury. Their ace Jameson Taillon has not made an appearance since early May and Chris Archer has struggled mightily. Although these injuries are less than ideal, they have brought out the best in the Pirates young core.
Additionally, Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, and Steven Brault have emerged as key contributors. As the Pirates outfield was ravaged with injuries, the Pirates turned to Reynolds. In sixty games he has hit everything in sight and leads all MLB rookies in batting average. He has at times carried the Pirates offense and come up big in clutch situations. His play is even more impressive considering he wasn’t expected to make his MLB debut until next season.
Although Reynolds has shined, his teammate Kevin Newman has been equally impressive. In 62 games, the Pirates shortstop is hitting .327. He has been a catalyst atop of the Pirates lineup as Adam Frazier struggled early on. Newman currently has the second highest average among all rookies and has become an important part of the Pirates future.
Along with Newman and Reynolds, Brault has stepped up when needed most. As injuries piled up, Brault was put in the rotation and failed.Over the past two months, he has gotten a second chance and been dominant. In his last seven starts, Brault has an ERA of 2.04. In those starts, he has only allowed eight earned runs and struck out 32. Although Brault is currently on the injured list, he is finally starting to live up to expectations.
While the Pirates success has been a combined effort, Josh Bell has been the team’s MVP. The Pirates first baseman currently leads the majors in doubles and runs batted in. He already has surpassed his home run total from last season and carried this offense for the majority of the season. He has been the Pirates best player and an extra-base machine.
Despite the offense’s success, this team will only go as far as it’s pitching. Over the last few weeks, the pitching staff has improved after being one of baseballs worst. The rotation that was besieged by injuries is nearly healthy. The bullpen that was giving fans nightmares has also improved. One key reason for the Bullpens turnaround has been the improvement of Richard Rodriguez.
The Pirates righty has not allowed an earned run since May 27th. In that span, his ERA has dropped from 5.49 to 3.63. Even with his emergence, the Pirates bullpen will still need upgrades at the trade deadline. Outside of Felipe Vazquez, Fransisco Liriano, and Kyle Crick, the relief corps has been inconsistent.
Going, into the second half the Pirates offense has proved that they can carry this team. In recent weeks they have been one of baseballs best even without key pieces. In the second half, it will be up to the pitching staff to step up. There is still a lot of baseball to be played, and it could be a special summer in Pittsburgh.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images