Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summertime, and the Living is Easy

Three months of the baseball season done; three to go.

It's June 30, the Pirates have 42 wins and are just a game out of first place.  We haven't been able to say that for the past 20 years.  Although they played well in 2011 and actually were in first place in mid-July, this season feels more solid than last year.  It feels like they're in this thing to stay.

This year, the Pirates not only averted the June swoon, which has plagued them in past years, but they closed out the month with four wins on the the road, two victories over the Cardinals and breathing down the necks of the first place Reds.  The Bucs are 22-11 in their past 33 games and posted back-to-back winning months for the first time in 15 years.  They got to 42 wins faster than at any time since their last winning season (1992).  Good for the Pirates, and good for their long-suffering fans.

Packing weapons.
The pitching's been solid all season, but for the past month, the hitting has been among the best in the majors.

In June, the Bucs led the majors in runs scored and the National League in home runs, punctuated emphatically today by Pedro Alvarez's first-inning grand slam in sultry St. Louis.

Let's hope Andrew McCutchen is okay.  He injured his wrist making a clutch, great catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Carlos Beltran, and let's hope it's not serious.  No revelation here, but McCutchen is definitely the team's MVP and best player, by far. Clint Hurdle says McCutchen will get the day off tomorrow, and hopefully his wrist heals quickly with no long-term ill effects.
For real?
For the Bucs, it was a solid win today, with Alvarez's grand slam in the first inning, an extremely encouraging start by starting pitcher Jeff Karstens and a very good showing from reliever Jared Hughes, who appears to be back on track.  Catcher Mike McKenry's been playing well, too, in place of the injured Rod Barajas

Having won the first two games of their series in St. Louis, they've already won this three-game series.  Entering this series, the Cardinals probably figured they'd bury the Pirates, but the Bucs have gained two games on them in the standings, with the Cardinals now three-and-a-half back, in third place. 

Better yet, the Bucs are 9-1-1 in their last 11 series, and they're on a roll.  It makes for a good, fun summer. Laissez les bon temps roulez.