It’s doubtful anyone is bringing back the old-time refrain of “Break up the Bucs” — besides, Pittsburgh Pirates management pretty much did that in the offseason with an overhaul of the rotation and some of the top offensive talent — but the team certainly has turned things around.
Entering Saturday’s game against the host Milwaukee Brewers, the Pirates have won five of their past seven games, including Friday’s series-opening 6-1 victory over the Brewers. Pittsburgh’s success came on the heels of a six-game losing streak that seemed to foretell an utterly dismal season.
“Come out and play max effort and play the game hard, and good things will happen,” Pirates second baseman Kevin Newman, who had a two-run triple Friday, told AT&T Sportsnet.
Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton was more specific.
“We’ve run the bases well, and we’ve played good defense,” he said of his club’s turnaround.
It likely helped Friday that Milwaukee’s offense was short-handed, specifically playing without outfielders Lorenzo Cain, who is on the out with a quadriceps injury, and Christian Yelich, who missed a second straight game because of a sore back.
Yelich’s status for Saturday is unclear.
The Brewers stranded nine runners Friday.
Saturday, Pittsburgh right-hander Trevor Cahill (0-1, 8.00 ERA) is scheduled to face Milwaukee left-hander Brett Anderson (1-1, 4.50 ERA).
In his most recent start, Anderson allowed one run and five hits over five innings, with two walks and one strikeout, and was backed by three Milwaukee homers in picking up the win in a 9-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“If the pitching keeps pitching like that, we’re going to be in a really good spot come the end of the season,” said Travis Shaw, one of the three who homered in that game.
That didn’t quite happen Friday. With two on and one out in the top of the fifth, Brewers manager Craig Counsell removed Adrian Houser, ending a franchise-record streak of eight straight games in which starters had gone at least five innings without giving up more than one run. The rotation posted a 0.59 ERA while opposing batters hit just .136 during the span.
Anderson feels a kinship with the rest of the rotation.
“You try to pass the baton on to the next guy, and hopefully, we keep that going,” he said.
Anderson is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates.
Cahill will be looking for his first win with the Pirates in his third start.
After giving up two runs or fewer in all but one of his appearances last year with San Francisco, Cahill’s first several weeks with his new team have been a bit rocky.
He signed late with Pittsburgh on March 12, which limited him to only pitching 3 2/3 innings over two appearances during spring training. In his first start of the season, he gave up seven earned runs in four innings in a 14-1 loss to Cincinnati.
Things seemed to take a turn for the better his last time out. He received a no-decision Monday against San Diego, when he gave up a run and three hits in five innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts.
“I feel like you’re never really satisfied, but I think I’m definitely getting to where I’m being comfortable out there,” Cahill said. “It seems like (I’m in) regular-season game form.”
Cahill is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 15 career games, two of them starts, against Milwaukee.
–Field Level Media