Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Starting Pitching, Power Hitting Are Off

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Starting Pitching, Power Hitting Are Off

Article excerpt

You probably won't find this in any known compendium of handy baseball axioms, but I think you'll agree it ought to be in there somewhere:

If your team can arrange to hit homers in 12 consecutive games, time it for when your starting pitching is starting wild fires on a nightly basis.

Or something.

You can play with the wording, but the general phenomenon is little less than the exact kind of mojo that has been fueling these Pirates all season long, the almost random alignment of complementary forces that got itself so beautifully illustrated for most of Tuesday night as they wrestled the Arizona Diamondbacks into extra innings.

When the Pirates offense struggled for a good portion of the first half of the season, the starting rotation all but pitched its nipples off. Now that there's a rotational misadventure almost every night, extra-base hits are arriving by the truckload.

It's how winning teams keep winning.

Or at least this winning team, the one with the best record in baseball since the second week in May.

Starling Marte, a decorated snake-killer his whole career, homered to center to start the Pirates third, and although that was the first time Marte had left any yard since July 1, it was the 17th home run by Clint Hurdle's lineup in the past 12 games.

Jung Ho Kang made it 18 four innings later, giving us barely enough time to ponder some imponderable Pirates trivia, the strain in which we learn that homers in 12 consecutive games is something that hasn't happened around here since the strike-aborted summer of 1994, when Orlando Merced and Don Slaught and Lloyd McClendon were clearing the decks for one of Jim Leyland's last skeleton crews.

You heard me.

The kind of offense isn't just spectacular, it's spectacularly necessary right now.

The starter Tuesday night, Francisco Liriano, went to the mound with an August ERA that looked like the rate for a first hour of parking downtown (7.00). Two innings later, it was 8.18 as Arizona constructed short-lived leads of 2-0 and 3-2. This baffling lefty was coming off a victory last week in St. Louis, where the offense had done him the huge favor of scoring seven times before Frankie even had to put his glove on, and together they went on to win, 10- 5. …

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