For the third straight season, Pirates fans are hoping that this is finally the year that their team can have sustained success for a full 162 game season. Fans were excited on July 18th and July 19th, 2011, as the Pirates back-to-back wins over Cincinnati gave them sole possession of first place. However, it was the only sole grab at first place all season. After beating Cincinnati on July 19th, the Pirates would go on to lose 69% of their remaining games to amass 90 losses and finish 24 games out of first place.
As Chad noted in his Pirates season/series preview back in April, the Pirates also woke up the morning of July 19th, 2012 in first place (tied with the Reds.) That would also be their last day to make a claim at first. The Pirates peaked that season at 16 games over .500 on August 8th, but again lost 69% of their remaining (52) games to finish 4 games under .500 and 18 games behind Cincinnati.
Now, on May 31st, 2013, the Pirates are already 14 games over .500 and have won 63% of their baseball games. They have the second best record in baseball. Can the fans be optimistic about their chances this season after the finishes they witnessed the past two years? For Pirates fans looking at the glass half full, the team has gotten it done this year by beating the good teams. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s their 2013 head-to-head record against current division leaders:
— Detroit 3-1
— Arizona 2-1
— Atlanta 3-1
— St. Louis 3-2
PROBABLE BATTING LINEUP
The Pirates have been trotting the same expected lineup out there since the beginning of the season.
The Pirates outscored the Reds 19-13 back in mid-April. Outside of playing Cincinnati, the Pirates offense has not been their strength. The Pirates come into play today ranked 24th in MLB with just 3.9 runs scored per game. Teams like Houston, Chicago and San Diego have outscored the Pirates so far this year.
PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING
The Pirates winning formula this season has centered on their pitching. The lead all of Major League Baseball with 3.3 runs allowed per game.
Friday, May 31 @ 7:05pm: Johnny Cueto (R) vs Wandy Rodriguez (L)
Saturday, June 1 on FOX @ 7:15pm: Mike Leake (R) vs. Francisco Liriano (L)
Sunday, June 2 on @ 1:35pm: Matt Latos (R) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (R)
The Pirates bullpen didn’t look good on paper coming into the season, but they have significantly outperformed expectations, so far. The bullpen as a whole has held opponents to .209/.290/.324 slash line, though that goes along with a unsustainably low .257 BABIP.
The last time the Reds left Pittsburgh, Cincinnati was in 3rd place, one game behind the Pirates and two games behind St. Louis. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have each played 42 games and have each gone 28-14. Meanwhile, St. Louis has a 28-13 record in their 41 games.
The division remains as tight as it was 12 games into the schedule and the Reds have a chance to make their move within the division with the Pirates series this weekend and three against the Cardinals next weekend.