Can the Pirates Keep Rolling?

Can the Pirates Break their Playoff Drought?

6/24/13 in MLB   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Jun 2, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) greets first baseman Garrett Jones (46) at home plate after Jones hit a two run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-4 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports$142 million vs. $66 million: the respective payrolls of the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates, two teams that faced off this weekend.  After silencing the Angels bats in the first two games of the series, the Pirates capped off the series in more dramatic fashion in Sunday’s game 3, bombarding the Angels bullpen - Ernesto Frieri in particular - and going on to close out the sweep of a team who had much higher expectations then them coming into the season.
Coupled with Texas’s sweep of St. Louis, the weekend proved to be an extremely positive step forward for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who now sit at an impressive 46-30, 1 game behind the Cardinals for first in the Central.  And their .605 win percentage is second best in the majors.
It’s been 21 years since the Pirates last made the playoffs, and only twice in the 21st Century have they finished the season with a win percentage over .450, never over .500.
So it’s impossible - unless you’re a St. Louis or Cincinnati fan of course - to not root for the Pirates to keep winning, but for now, let’s get to know these underdogs a little better….
The Lineup
The man who makes everything spin for the Pirates offense is centerfielder Andrew McCutchen.  His numbers are actually a bit down so far this year, but he’s still hitting a solid .289, leading the team in runs (49) and second on the team in both RBIs (38) and home runs (8).  He’s the everyday 3-hitter, with the ability to both drive in runs and set the table for the middle third of the lineup.
Leading things off is 2nd year outfielder Starling Marte.  Hitting .278 with 22 stolen bases and 46 runs, he’s shown solid potential to be the team’s leadoff hitter moving forward.  Right now, he’s a bit of an X-factor.  As are a lot of the Pirates hitters, in reality.  Garrett Jones, who usually hits cleanup, is a .259 hitter with a lot of power-hitting potential, but consistency has yet to be a strong suite for him in his 5 years for the Pirates.  Russell Martin, Neil Walker, and Gaby Sanchez are all key bats in the middle of the lineup as well.
But one of the main reasons Pittsburgh’s offense has taken a big step forward this year is the big bat of third baseman Pedro Alvarez.  Although he’s still yet to figure out how to get on base consistently in the majors, Alvarez has hit 19 home runs and drove in 51 runs (both team highs) so far this year.  And he’s quite likely going to earn himself a spot on the NL All-Star team because of his hot start.  He’s only hitting .237 - which is about his career average at this point - but having another big bat to support McCutchen has been huge for the team so far this year.
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