Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Driving' 2018's Early Success Francisco Cervelli Wheels One Around

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Driving' 2018's Early Success Francisco Cervelli Wheels One Around

Article excerpt

Near the end of spring training, Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez were walking around at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla., to take batting practice when Rodriguez made the suggestion:

This season, he said, let's do left turns.

After a big hit, Rodriguez said, the Pirates should make a left turn, a steering-wheel-like gesture to the bench. If Rodriguez was the brains behind the idea, Harrison was its most vocal evangelist, and he didn't need much persuading to help put it into effect.

"You run the bases, you're going to make left turns," Harrison said. "You make a right turn, you out. Left turns. Keep turning left. Keep rounding the bases."

The left turn embodies the early success of the 2018 Pirates, who have been making plenty of left turns around the bases this season. After a win Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies, they were averaging 5.2 runs per game, were in the top five in MLB in batting average (.259) and slugging (.430). Gregory Polanco was tied for fourth in RBIs with 15, despite hitting under .200, and Corey Dickerson is tied for 10th with a .328 average. A year ago, the Pirates ranked near the bottom in most critical offensive categories, including home runs (second-to-last, with 151) and batting average (.244, tied for fourth from the bottom).

There are several reasons for the early offensive success -- the health and availability of Polanco and Starling Marte, contributions from newcomers Dickerson and Colin Moran and relatively even production throughout the lineup. Even new left-hander Enny Romero got in on the act after his first big-league hit, a double, against the Rockies, although -- newbie's mistake -- he erroneously steered right.

"I think they all have challenged themselves individually not so much to hit home runs but to cover pitches in areas they can do damage, and to look a little bit more up, out over the plate," manager Clint Hurdle said. …

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