Pittsburgh Undergoing CPR: Cutch Pirates Revival
If you look at the standing in Major League Baseball’s National League Central Division, you may have to do a double take. That’s because the Pittsburgh Pirates are all alone in first place. That’s right, the Buccos are off to their best start since 1992, a year they were a playoff team.
The season is off to such a great start for the Bucs that manager Derek Shelton was given a contract extension the weekend of April 21. As of this writing, the Pirates have won seven in a row their longest streak since 2018 when they won 11 consecutive games. Their 16-7 record on April 24 puts them one half-game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Last season Pittsburgh finished in last place in the division losing 100 games and finding themselves 31 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals who finished first. In the off-season, they brought former Pirate Andrew McCutchen home and he is partly the reason for the resurgence of the Bucs.
On April 24, McCutchen saw his average at a healthy .275 with four home runs, four doubles, three stolen bases, and has struck out just 13 times in 69 at-bats. It doesn’t hurt to have Bryan Reynolds in the lineup as well who was hitting .294 when the Pirates took over first place adding five home runs.
In right field, Joe Connor is hitting a crisp .357 in 18 games played with six doubles and a slugging percentage of .643. Reynolds leads the team with 18 RBIs but veteran Carlos Santana is not far behind with 12, equaling Jack Suwinski’s total.
But pitching has been key to getting Pittsburgh to the top spot in the division as it has been outstanding. Johan Oviedo has a 2-1 record at the time of this story with an excellent 2.22 ERA. Mitch Keller is 2-0 and has struck out 30 batters in 29.2 innings. Vince Velasquez has K’d 27 batters in 26.1 innings of work. Oviedo? 25 whiffs by opposing batters in 24.1 innings pitched.
David Bednar has saved eight games in relief but the real test will come in the last full week of April when Pittsburgh hosts the tough Los Angeles Dodgers. The one thing that will make Pirates fans nervous and take caution with is that there have been past seasons that the Pirates got off to a solid start to the season but then as the campaign dragged on, the Bucs faded.
Could this be the year the Pirates can sustain their good play? This article finds the Pirates in sixth place overall in batting and 10th in pitching. Consistency will be the key and manager Shelton will have to keep everyone focused and if he can do that and get his team to the post-season then he stands a good chance of being named Manager of the Year and for McCutchen, he could be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year if he finishes with some solid numbers.