MILWAUKEE - After ending the month of April with a twi game losing skid, the Pittsburgh Pirates proved they weren't going to fade yet, and they did it in convincing fashion.
The Buccos won 11 straight contests, started with a 10-3 drubbing of Colorado, and featuring sweeps of the Padres (3-0, 3-0, 4-2), Astros (8-1, 5-2, 3-2), and Dodgers (7-6, 9-2, 5-4, 3-1), before falling twice in their usual house of horrors, Miller Park, to the Brewers.
Pittsburgh's success has really been an all-around effort. Their pitching staff is second in the majors in ERA (3.17), first in strikouts (336), and fourth in WHIP (1.29), while their hitters have been no slouch, leading the National League in home runs (50), ranking second in batting average (.277), and being tops in on base percentage (.334) and runs (202).
Another key statistic that has shown their ability to make the key play is that they are tops in the NL in batting average with runners in scoring position, at a .318 clip.
"The guys have done all the right things so far," manager Clint Hurdle said. "All the dominoes have fallen our way so far, and with all the work we've put in we're hoping to keep it going that way."
Lyle Overbay and Pedro Alvarez powered the Pittsburgh offense during the stretch, as Overbay raised his average an astounding .043 points while bashing four homers and 12 RBI, and Alvarez boosted his average to .353 and added a couple dingers and 12 RBI.
Neil Walker also continued his hot play, scoring 12 runs in the span and smacking three homers. However, he will be sidelined for 2 weeks with a dislocated shoulder, joining the Buccos' extensive disabled list.
The Pirates also had Andrew McCutchen awaken from his dreary April, as he hit his first three homers of the year, including two (with four RBI) in the 8-1 win over Houston.
"I'm feeling better up there," McCutchen said. "I think I was fighting the ball a little bit, trying to do too much up there. Lately, I've been going with the pitch and just feeling it up there."
Walk-offs were a prevalent theme in the two weeks, as the Pirates had consecutive walkoff homers from Ryan Doumit (3-2 win vs. HOU in 11 innings) and Walker (7-6 win vs. LAD), while giving up a walk off hit last night in a 6-5 loss to Milwaukee in 12 innings. The Dodgers contest was Cutch's strongest game (4-5, 3 R) while Walker had 3 RBI in the contest.
Walker also had the go ahead three run homer in the 5-4 win over Los Angeles.
Four of the five Pirate starters saw their ERAs drop in this period, while James McDonald's rose to just 1.25 and he stills leads the league in that category. Closer Joel Hanrahan boosted his save total to 17, leading the league by two over St. Louis's Jason Motte.
The only thing really standing in the Bucs' way is the injury bug, which has left starters Walker, Ronny Cedeno, and Jose Tabata out for at least 12 more days each.
"It's tough to lose these guys," Hurdle said. "But we've had capable guys step in and fill the void and we're hoping that trend continues until they can return."
The Bucs will finish up their roadtrip with one more contest with the Brewers and sets in Washington (16-23) and Cincinnati (22-17), before returning home to take on Detroit (21-19) and Atlanta (25-16). Paul Maholm (4-1, 2.12) will take the hill today for the PIrates against Zac Grienke (2-4, 4.12) and the Brew Crew.