Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Entertaining Pirates Need Better Starting Pitching to Stay in Races

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Entertaining Pirates Need Better Starting Pitching to Stay in Races

Article excerpt

The list of the Pirates' pleasant surprises is almost endless:

Josh Bell having one of the best first halves in baseball history. Rookies Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman taking advantage of injuries to take on the look of stars. Colin Moran establishing himself as a legitimate third baseman after losing his starting job in spring training. Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings filling in for Francisco Cervelli and not missing a beat. The team hitting a National League-best .271. The pinch-hitters clubbing .341 with seven home runs and a baseball-best 31 RBIs. The 22 comeback wins. The 11 wins in the final at-bat.

The list goes on and on.

It is such a likeable, entertaining team.

My biggest surprise is the way the Pirates somehow have overcome a negative. Their pitchers' earned-run average is 4.91, second-worst in the National League behind only Colorado's 5.16. They still are within 2½ games of first place in the National League Central and 2½ games out of a wild-card slot. They are in much better position than they were at the All-Star break last season, when they were 9 games out in the division and 5½ for a wild card.

I can't say I saw any of this coming.

But the Pirates still are below .500 - 44-45 - and still in fourth place in the division. Their pitching doesn't just have to be better in the second half if they're going to compete for a playoff slot. It has to be much better. They need a couple of pitchers to have the second half that Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams had last season when they were as good as any two starters in baseball. Taillon was 8-3 with a 2.33 ERA after the All-Star break, Williams 7-3 with a 1.38 ERA. It won't be Taillon this season; he's been out since May 1 with an elbow injury and might not pitch again this year. Williams has a shot, but his ERA in his past three starts since coming back after missing a month with a left side strain is 8. …

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