Have you looked at the MLB standings recently? Well, if you had, you'd notice that the Pittsburgh Pirates are hanging around .500 and are a stones throw out of first in the NL Central. That's right, these same Pirates who haven't had a winning season since 1992 are flirting with breaking this string of ineptness and are looking pretty solid doing so.
This past weekend was the latest example of these new Bucco's as they took 2 out of 3 against American League powerhouse Boston, causing them to slip out of first in their fight with rival New York Yankees.
"I think you kind of look and see how you're measuring up, see how you fare and I think we're going to walk away not feeling any different than when we walked in: We can beat anybody we play on a given day or a night when we play well," Manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates have been the surprise story of the first half as they are still in contention in a wide open division that is anyone's for the taking, and a major reason for this is the all-star level of play from Andrew McCutchen and closer Joel Hanrahan.
McCutchen, statistically, has been the sixth most valuable position player in baseball, according to FanGraphs’ WAR (wins above replacement). He has dramatically improved in both his offense and more importantly his defense and has improved his stock from a good player to a superstar.
The second of the two players named, Hanrahan, has been lights out as a closer, going 22 for 22 in save opportunities. With his 1.24 ERA, big fastball and deceptive slider, Hanrahan has been impossible to hit and when his name gets called, you can expect the job to get done.
Now, as reality has told up before, just because you can get it done for one half doesn't mean you can keep it up for a second but if anyone can keep these surging Pirates on the right direction, it's Clint Hurdle. Hurdle has been the orchestrator of this turnaround and has everyone in Pittsburgh believing that this team has a chance at something other than mediocrity.
For a long time, Pittsburgh has been about it's football first and it's baseball, honestly, a distant third but maybe now is the time for these Pirates to step up and take their place among the forefront of peoples attention.
At least, for a good reason this time!
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS