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Pittsburgh Pirates Week in Review: Bucs take four of five from Brewers, Sox

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The Pittsburgh Pirates continued to keep pace in the National League Central race with an impressive week.

Much to the surprise of many, the Pittsburgh Pirates remain in the thick of things in the NL Central. The Bucs are 21-16 this season and sit one game back in third place in the division. The St. Louis Cardinals sit in first place with the Milwaukee Brewers a half game back in second. The Chicago Cubs are a game and a half back in fourth and the Cincinnati Reds sit alone in the divisional basement.

At times, the Pirates have struggled to gain consistency. An early series sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies had people doubting if this team is at all legitimate. The Bucs were swept in four games again last week by the Washington Nationals and, again, it brought up those same doubts.

However, the Bucs bounced back in a big way last weekend, taking two of three from the Brewers at Miller Park, a ball park that has haunted the Pirates in years past. The Pirates have had a ton of early success against divisional opponents, posting a 10-3 record against them.

The team followed their series victory over the Brewers with a two-game sweep of a bad Chicago White Sox team. A sweep of the Sox isn’t the most impressive accomplishment, but beating the bad teams is something the Pirates have struggled with in the past, so the fact that they are getting that done is a promising sign.

There were many intriguing storylines and happenings in Pirates baseball this past week as the team has won four of its last five games. Here is a list of a few performances/storylines that caught my eye.

Masterpiece from Kuhl

It would be an understatement to say that Chad Kuhl was simply good against the Brewers Sunday. The 25-year-old rebounded from a rough outing in Washington last week, surrendering one hit in seven shutout innings while walking two and striking out eight. His eight-strikeout performance was his second of the kind in his last three starts.

Our own David Slusser recently dug deeper into Kuhl’s phenomenal performance, which helped lower his season ERA from 5.01 to 4.12, and went in depth into what made the right-hander so effective.

Kuhl has simply dominated the Brewers over his career. He is 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in six career starts against them. The Pirates have won all six of those starts.

Feliz excelling out of bullpen, struggles continue for Kontos

Going into the season, I didn’t think Michael Feliz would be very productive for the Pirates. I thought his high walk rate would be a concern and that he would be somewhat of a bust after being acquired from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I was wrong.

Aside from a rough season debut in which he gave up four runs on three hits and a walk without getting an out against the Detroit Tigers on March 30, Feliz has been one of the Pirates most reliable relief options.

In 15 innings since his team debut, Feliz has allowed just one run on nine hits. He has walked five and has struck out 20. Feliz has at least one strikeout in all but three of his 17 appearances this season.

One guy thought to be a major contributor in the bullpen prior to the season was George Kontos. However, the veteran hasn’t been very good this season, allowing eight runs on 17 hits in 16.1 innings. He has walked five and has only produced five punch outs, while opposing hitters are batting .270 against him.

For a guy who had struggled for the most parts over his first few seasons in Houston, it’s safe to say Feliz has exceeded expectations up to this point. While on the other hand, Kontos, who has been trusted in several high leverage situations this season, has been somewhat of a disappointment.

The Pirates bullpen still has its flaws and isn’t perfect by any means, but having these two pitching quality innings is what the Bucs will need if they want to continue their success throughout the summer. They can only hope that Feliz will continuously give them quality innings and that Kontos can figure things out sooner rather than later.

Pirates offense heating up again

Through the first 30-plus games of the season, the Pirates’ offense is still one of the best in baseball.

They rank second in the NL and seventh in the majors with 184 runs scored and a .257 team average. The Bucs are also surprisingly hitting a lot more home runs this year. Their 42 long balls rank them in the top 12 in the majors and tied for third in the NL with the Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Pirates scored just 10 runs in their four-game set against the Nationals last week, taking a step back from their overall stellar offensive prowess this year.

But the Bucs’ bats started to heat up a bit more this week, scoring 34 runs against the Brewers (18) and White Sox (16). Their 34 runs were third most in the NL this past week and they also blasted the third most home runs (10).

Guys like Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco have made a huge impact in the last week, hitting over .300 while each driving in four or more runs. Josh Bell has even begun to swing a better bat as of late and is showing more plate discipline at the plate.

Not many thought the Pirates’ bats would be their biggest strength up to this point in the season, but it’s been the reality.

Up next

The Pirates begin a nine game home stand with a three game weekend series at PNC Park against Andrew McCutchen and the San Francisco Giants. Jameson Taillon takes the hill tonight against Andrew Suarez.

Following their set with the Giants, the Bucs will host the White Sox in another two game series and the San Diego Padres in a four game set.

Jose Negron is a news/sports reporter for the Mon Valley Independent newspaper in Monessen, Pa. He has contributed Pirates coverage for Rum Bunter and Pirates Breakdown for the last two years. Jose is a 2016 graduate of California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Journalism.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

Parsing GM speak, living with Gregory Polanco and more

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On the latest episode of Locked on Pirates, host Jason Rollison explains how to parse GM Speak, how to live with Gregory Polanco and wonders out loud if the Washington Nationals just opened the floodgates.

All that and more on the latest episode of Locked on Pirates, live for your listening pleasure:

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

Off Day Mailbag with 93.7 The Fan’s Josh Taylor

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On this episode of Locked on Pirates, host Jason Rollison brings in Josh Taylor of 93.7 The Fan to help answer your burning Pittsburgh Pirates questions and more.

The latest episode of Locked on Pirates is available for your listening pleasure. Each off day, we open up our mailbag to your various gripes, salient points and even more gripes (understandable) to help us get through the off day.

Josh is always a great guest, and together we talk Jung Ho Kang, Gregory Polanco and so much more. It’s an engaging bout of Pirates talk without the BS. We hope you enjoy, and if you do please consider subscribing at the links below!

NOTE: Had some audio issues a the beginning which level out at around the 1:00 minute mark. 

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

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The Locked on Interview – Adam McInturff from 2080 Baseball

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In the return of Locked on Pirates and the Locked on Pirates interview, Alex Stumpf talks the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates draft with 2080 Baseball’s Adam McInturff. Together the duo go through the 2018 Pirates draft and talk about some of the lesser-known prospects for the West Virginia Power.

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Beginning with Opening Day, Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the buttons below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

 

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