For whatever reason, Sunday is usually the day that I sit back and evaluate where the Pirates are compared to where they've been. It's probably something about the afternoon game that gives an easy week-to-week point of reference
Last Sunday, the Pirates were in rough shape. They were 1 1/2 games out of first after being swept by the Cardinals. Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett had both gotten bombed, Charlie Morton was an unknown after his injury, and Gerrit Cole's last couple of starts had been decent but not spectacular. I kept telling myself that if the Pirates could get through Texas to the Cubs' series that they might be able to make up some ground in the race, but it seemed hard to figure out how they'd get through Texas with Yu Darvish looming. Beating up on the Cubs felt like a bit of a long-shot, too, because the Pirates really hadn't played all that well against poor teams recently, either.
Fast forward a week. After Francisco Liriano lost his no-hitter and his lead in a matter of a couple of pitches thanks to a Welington Castillo home run, and I felt like I did during the Marlin series that previously represented a high-point for the Pirates this year year. It seemed like it was only a matter of how they were going to win and not if they were going to find a way to do it. The answer yesterday ended up being a Justin Morneau pinch-hit single with Andrew McCutchen on second that somehow caught the grass twice instead of one-hopping straight into Brian Bogusevic's glove, which gave McCutchen the time he needed to get home with what ended up being the game-winning run.
Suddenly, the Pirates have won six of seven, they're 87-62, and they're tied for first with the Cardinals. It's true that four of these six wins have been by one run (and that the other two have been be two runs), but as I said on Thursday, style points are no longer a consideration here. The Pirates were backed up to a wall after the Cardinal series, and they've responded.
Of course, all that matters now is where they are next Sunday. They're on fire for the moment, but we've seen this season swing on less than a dime more than one time. Six of seven is a nice run at the perfect moment, but the Pirates need at least three of four from the Padres in the early part of this week and then they probably need two of three from the Reds in the second part of it. The Cardinals have four against the Rockies and three against the Brewers; counting on them to slow down is poor strategy. The best part of winning six times in seven nerve-wracking games last week is the idea that we get seven more nerve-wracking games this week.
It's taken me all season to realize how just how terrible the Cincy Redlegs outfield defense really is. After watching Cutch fly around center like an acrobat and come up with extremely nice catches, it is amazing to watch the Redlegs Choo and Bruce. They are God-awful. Choo allowed a lazy short fly to fall in front of him (by 5-6 ft?) on Friday night when he made no serious attempt to charge toward the ball and leave his feet. Matt Latos was shown in the dugout after having just been pulled (but his baserunners scored) when Choo made no effort and Latos went ballistic. Then yesterday, a high fly ball was hit fairly deep into the rcf gap between Bruce and Choo. It appeared to be Bruce's ball to catch but he slowed down at the last moment and then fell to the turf clumsily as the ball tipped off his glove. I think Bruce saw Choo coming toward him but Choo had no play on the ball but it distracted Bruce for some reason. Anyway, this misplay led to the Brewers great comeback at Miller Park. Seeing this just makes me appreciate Cutch and his teammates in the Pirate outfield. Other than that sorry drop by Marte in StL last month I'd say the Bucs outfield has saved at least a half-dozen games for Pirates pitchers.
@mwr505 You do know that the Reds have the best defense in baseball this year? They turn more balls into outs than any other team, Pirates included. They'll have their bad games, like any team will, but those guys are really good. They get to more balls and make fewer errors (3rd best in MLB).
Marte and Cutch are awesome, but Marte had a Little League drop and Cutch had that ball skip past him that led to 2 runs and a guy on 3rd. Both errors led directly to losses. It doesn't mean they suck, though.