The Pittsburgh Pirates got to have a little fun Monday night in San Diego, as they plated seven runs in the final four innings to drub the Padres 10-3.
If the rout seemed unfamiliar, it’s for good reason: until last night, the Bucs hadn’t beaten an opponent by more than three runs since topping St. Louis 6-1 on April 26. That was a span of 16 victories (and 31 total games) without getting to engage the cruise control even a little bit.
What makes that month-long run of tight triumphs even more remarkable is that the Pirates are in the midst of their strongest stretch of play this season. Pittsburgh (27-30) has won nine of 13 since a blowout loss to Baltimore dropped the Bucs to a season-low eight games below .500 on May 20.
In short, the Pirates have piled up the wins lately, even though they rarely get to breathe until the final out.
A little more offense would surely help the Pirates’ comfort level, especially when it comes to the bullpen. With the exception of Brandon Cumpton‘s poor performance Saturday at Dodger Stadium, Pittsburgh starting pitchers have kept their team in essentially every game for the past two weeks.
The underlying numbers indicate that outbursts like Monday’s at Petco Park should be occurring with more regularity. A quick glance around the National League reveals that the Pirates are among the circuit’s top offensive clubs – in every category but runs, that is.
But while Pittsburgh is eighth in the NL in runs with 222, it has been the best team in MLB in on-base percentage (.351) since May 1 and third in the NL overall (.326). While their slugging percentage (.381) and home runs (52) are middle of the road in the league, the Pirates’ walk rate (8.5 percent) and strikeout rate (20.1 percent) rank third, and their batting average of .251 is fifth.
All of the above indicates that the Bucs are due to climb the charts in that most important category: runs. Maybe we’ll look back at Monday as the beginning of a course correction in that regard, with the imminent promotion of mega-prospect Gregory Polanco likely to help, too.
Last year, a torrid June boosted the Pirates well above the .500 mark and set them up nicely for their first playoff appearance in two decades. The relevant offensive statistics show that another early-summer eruption is more likely than their current so-so standing would indicate.