As we enter the final weekend before the All-Star Break, it’s tough to find a hotter team in Major League Baseball playing with more confidence than the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’re ten games over .500, 27-13 at home, and have the second highest winning percentage in the National League behind only the Washington Nationals.
The Bucs are 4-0 thus far on their final home stand before the break for the ASG, and another strong series this weekend against the San Francisco Giants would send the Pittsburgh crowd into even more of hysteria than has already ensued in recent weeks.
Andrew McCutchen is gaining some well deserved national recognition as not only one of the best outfielders in the game, but some baseball analysts are seriously considering him as the league MVP through the first half of the season. He is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league, and it’s difficult find another player in the N.L. that is more valuable to his team than Cutch is to the Pirates.
Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones, and Casey McGehee are looking like the hitters we were all hoping they’d be at the beginning of the season. Drew Sutton has been a welcomed addition, while Neil Walker and Michael McKenry have come up with some big hits down the stretch as well.
Unfortunately, there have been a few disappointments as well. Alex Presley has landed on the 7-day DL, while Jose Tabata has been demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. At the beginning of the season, these two were presumed to be setting the table for McCutchen & Co. Clint Barmes continues his struggles, while Rod Barajas is still battling his knee issue. Fortunately for the Bucs, though, with the way they’re playing right now, these struggles haven’t hurt the team in terms of wins and losses.
The starting pitching has come back to reality a bit since the beginning of the season, which we all knew it would. A.J. Burnett and James McDonald are still the aces of the rotation, but Kevin Correia, Erik Bedard, and Jeff Karstens battle every time they take the mound, and very rarely put their team out of contention to win. The bullpen is among the best in baseball, as it has been all year.
Following the hoopla involved with sweeping the Houston Astros, the Bucs welcome in a much more difficult opponent this weekend in the Giants.
Giants (45-38) vs. Pirates (46-36)
About The Giants…
45-38 Record, 2nd In N.L. West
Last Series: 0-3 Series Sweep @ Washington Nationals
It hasn’t been a great season for the Giants this year, but it hasn’t been a bad one either. They’re seven games over .500, and are chasing the slumping and injury-ridden Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. West. Due to World Series success a couple of years ago, expectations have risen dramatically for this franchise, so trailing the surprising Dodgers in the division is troubling for baseball fans in San Francisco. Still, they’ve put together impressive winning streaks and runs this year, and have been consistently hovering anywhere from 5-10 games over .500 throughout the year. Their 17-11 mark in June was one of the best in the National League, but they’re coming off a series sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals, who currently occupy the league’s best record.
Melky Cabrera has solidified himself as one of the league’s best hitters with his .356 clip in the first half this year. Buster Posey, whom they sorely missed last season, has returned to lead the club in homeruns and RBI’s. But let’s not kid ourselves. This team relies on their pitching staff to win the majority of their games.
The Giants’ starting pitching rotation is incredibly stacked. The lineup of Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Barry Zito is regarded as one of the best in baseball, despite Lincecum’s struggles this season.
7/6 – Barry Zito (SF) (6-6, 3.84 ERA, 52 K, 45, BB, WHIP 1.40) vs. Erik Bedard (PIT) (4-9, 4.57 ERA, 77 K, 36 BB, WHIP 1.48)
7/7 – Ryan Vogelsong (SF) (7-3, 2.26 ERA, 72 K, 34 BB, WHIP 1.11) vs. James McDonald (PIT) (8-3, 2.45 ERA, 90 K, 31 BB, WHIP 1.00)
7/8 – Tim Lincecum (SF) (3-9, 6.08 ERA, 101 K, 49 BB, WHIP 1.55) vs. A.J. Burnett (PIT) (9-2, 3.74 ERA, 74 K, 31 BB, WHIP 1.33)
Quotes From Both Sides:
[box_dark] “We probably should have had 10 runs today, and we didn’t get it done there. You play a good team, and when you don’t put them away and keep it close, things like this can happen.” [/box_dark]
Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy on their loss to the Washington Nationals on Thursday
[box_dark] “There are two kinds of people in this world, those who are humble and those who are about to be. We’ve still got work to do.” [/box_dark]
Clint Hurdle on the Pirates leading the N.L. Central
The Bucs haven’t been ten games over .500 since 1992. The city of Pittsburgh is really beginning to rally around this team, which has become the biggest story of the 2012 baseball season so far. Be sure to check back here for recaps and reactions to each and every Pirates’ game from us, the Fans From The Stands!
Let’s Go Bucs!