Has anyone else noticed that the Pittsburgh Pirates are 10 games over .500 and in first place? I knew that after a sluggish start they were playing good ball but I didn’t realize just how good. Unlike last season when the team collapsed at the end of July, this year’s edition of the Bucs are a serious threat to win the division.
Andrew McCutchen has vaulted into the air of elite player status. His .356 batting average is tops in the National League and he has knocked in 54 and has scored 53 times. Right now, he would be the NL MVP. James McDonald has put together an outstanding season, finally living up to his vast potential. He has nine wins to go along with an ERA under 2.50 and over 100 strikeouts. A.J. Burnett has been a tremendous pickup, firmly entrenching himself at the top of Pittsburgh’s rotation. He also has nine victories after missing the first two weeks of the season with an eye injury. At the back end of the bullpen is “The Hammer”, Joel Hanrahan, who is making his second straight All Star appearance. He has 22 saves, on pace to exceed last season’s total of 40. Pedro Alvarez has finally been living up to his status as the second pick in the draft. Some of his tape measure home runs have been highlight fixtures.
In 2011, the Pirates traded for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick at the deadline to bolster a sputtering offense. There may not be a need for a bat this season. This team led the Majors in runs scored in June. However, management did show last season that they will make in-season moves to bolster the team’s playoff chances. That is a welcome departure for a fan base that has too often seen its team be sellers instead of buyers. The pirates may or may not make the postseason. What I can say for sure is that their 20 consecutive seasons of below .500 finishes will come to an end come October.
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