Soaring Pirates are dreaming big
Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen

Posted Jul 9, 2012


The Pirates are touching heights unseen since Barry Bonds' final year in Pittsburgh, 1992, also the franchise's most recent winning season. And they'd love dearly to keep the story going this time.

Their record is 48-37, a stunning 11 games over the .500 mark they haven't achieved in 20 years.

They're atop the National League Central.

They've won 28 of the past 41 games.

Can it possibly last?

"The days of us looking down at the ground after a tough loss or falling apart with a three-game losing streak ... that's over," second baseman and Pittsburgh native Neil Walker said after his five hits, including a monster home run, powered a 13-2 blowout of the Giants on Sunday at PNC Park. "We take the field every single day believing we should win."

The Pirates have enjoyed surprisingly strong offense in June and July, batting .278 with 50 home runs in that time. But it's had a fluky feel in the context of an April and May in which they batted .181. The pitching remains paramount.

Both could use reinforcing, which is why the Pirates are in a buying mode, manager Clint Hurdle reiterated Sunday. They'll be looking for a corner outfield bat and maybe another starting pitcher, and they won't be shy about paying with prospects and/or cash to make it happen.

"Our focus is to exhaustively search for all opportunities to add to this club and to execute the right moves to make this club better," general manager Neal Huntington said.

It's already a summer to remember in Pittsburgh, where PNC Park has sold out nine times and attendance is up 12 percent. But much more could be on the way.

Notes, Quotes

RHP A.J. Burnett became only the fifth Pittsburgh pitcher to have 10 wins at the break when he improved to 10-2 with the Pirates' 13-2 victory over the Giants on Sunday. Burnett pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

CF Andrew McCutchen hasn't had many stretches that weren't hot. But even so, his 21-for-38 (.553) tear going into his second All-Star Game appearance was above the norm. He entered the break as the National League batting leader with a .360 average, plus 18 home runs, including two more Sunday, and 60 RBI.

1B Casey McGehee was injured Sunday immediately after hitting a two-run single deep into the left-center gap, pulling up on the basepaths with what the team described as a mildly strained left groin. There was no immediate word on whether he might be ready after the break.

1B Matt Hague was recalled after an 11-day demotion to the minors. He went 11-for-35 (.314) with a homer and 12 RBI in eight games for Class AAA Indianapolis.

C Eric Fryer, who went 1-for-3 in four games as an extra catcher while Rod Barajas was hurt, was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis. Fryer had hit .165 with no homers and four RBI in 40 games for Indianapolis before his recent promotion.

RHP Chris Leroux cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Indianapolis. He had been on the disabled list since April 4 due to a strained pectoral muscle, and he went 0-1 with a 3.77 ERA in a combined 11 rehab appearances for Class A Bradenton and Indianapolis over the past month.

CF Starling Marte continued to swing a torrid bat for Class AAA Indianapolis, prompting more than a few complaints from the fan base about what was taking so long to promote him. Marte, 23, was batting .290 with nine home runs, 52 RBI and 18 steals through Sunday, and he was playing superlative defense. He might be called up after the All-Star break. Last year, Marte led the Eastern League with a .332 average and with 18 outfield assists for Class AA Altoona.

2B Alen Hanson is one of minor league baseball's hottest commodities, breaking into most publications' top-100 and even top-50 lists after an exceptional first half for low Class A West Virginia. Hanson, a 19-year-old signee out of the Dominican Republic, was batting .335 with 15 home runs, 48 RBI, a .395 on-base percentage and a .597 slugging percentage through the weekend. He's only 5-foot-11, 152 pounds, but he has explosive bat speed.

By The Numbers: 11—Games over .500 at the All-Star break, the Pirates' highest standing at any point in any season since 1992.

Quote To Note: "This hasn't happened in a Pirates uniform in a long time." —Manager Clint Hurdle, on CF Andrew McCutchen's amazing first half.


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