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July 3, 2013

On the Beat

Bucking the Losing Trend

by John Perrotto


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has become baseball’s parallel universe. On the western side of the state in Pittsburgh, the Pirates look like serious contenders for their first post-season berth—and winning season—since 1992. On the eastern side, the Phillies appear destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight season since winning five straight National League East titles from 2007-11.

The initial reaction is to think the Pirates are flukes. After all, this is a franchise that has often been out of contention by Memorial Day over the past two decades. Yet on the eve of Independence Day, the Pirates’ 51-31 record is the best in the major leagues, and they take offense when people suggest that being 20 games over .500 is fluky.

“Everything that these guys have done has been earned,” said right-hander Charlie Morton, who rejoined the team in middle of June after starting the season on the disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery. “I don't see it as 'things are going our way,' or 'we're catching all the breaks.' I see a team that's fighting for every inch and earning every win. I wouldn't classify it as luck. I wouldn't because that would be selling them short about what they've done so far."

The Pirates’ record has been built on pitching and defense, as they are second in the major leagues in runs allowed with an average of 3.40 a game. That has made up for a lackluster offense, which ranks 10th in the NL and 21st in the major leagues; the Pirates are scoring 3.95 runs a game.

The Pirates’ bullpen, in particular, has been outstanding. Closer Jason Grilli has a 0.81 FIP and a 1.26 Fair Run Average, and set-up man Mark Melancon is at 1.58 and 2.15. Six relievers combined to pitch 12 scoreless innings Sunday in a 2-1 win over the Brewers in 14 innings after Morton was forced from the game after two innings because of a lengthy rain delay.

“I feel like they all throw 110,” Brewers left fielder Logan Schafer said. “They've all got good stuff. They know what they're doing, they locate for the most part. They're pretty effective at getting ahead in counts, and I think that's big on their end. “

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Painting the Black: Th... (07/03)
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