The Pittsburgh Pirates six-game winning streak was put to a halt Sunday by the Cincinnati Reds. The Buccos had a clean series sweep of the Colorado Rockies, each game in high-scoring fashion. Pittsburgh has the fourth best scoring offense and is batting an MLB-best .290. They had 24 runs in three games against Colorado, tied for their second most in a three-game set against any opponent this season (Arizona 27, San Diego 24).
Andrew McCutchen was responsible for five of those runs in the Colorado series, and they were all in one game. On April 26, the 2013 MLB MVP hit a 444-foot home run to left center in the first inning, a 437-foot home run in the third and a 387-footer in the sixth.
In the midst of the 162-game MLB season, there aren’t many games or series that can be considered more important than others, but the Pirates-Chicago Cubs series played Monday through Wednesday gave us an idea of where the two teams stand, and that’s not good for Pittsburgh.
The Pirates were swept in a three game series, being outscored 20-5 by the Cubs.
Chicago entered the series with an MLB-best 17-6 record. And Jake Arrieta has been nothing short of the best on the mound as he threw a no hitter agains the Reds on April 22 just eight months removed from throwing ones against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arrieta is 6-0 this season with 0.84 ERA and 37 strikeouts.
Last year, the Pirates and Cubs were both ranked top three in highest walk rate. The Cubs were No. 1 at 13.5 percent, and the Pirates were No. 3 with 10.6 percent. The Cubs have walked ten or more times in a game three times already this season. They are making their opponents pitch right to them and not around them.
Starling Marte’s 34 hits are fourth in the NL, and it’s only May, but his .327 batting average would be career high as he’s never finished a season above .291. In his career against the Cubs, Marte entered the series batting .305 with six homers and 26 RBI’s. He’s stolen seven bags this season, tied for most in the NL, and the Cubs have allowed the third most stolen bases in the MLB this season with 20, but that didn’t show in this series. Marte didn’t steal any bases the series and only had one hit.
To that point, the offense was carrying the Pirates, while their pitching remained their Achilles heel. Entering the series, Pittsburgh ranked 19th allowing more than four runs per game, and their .253 opponent batting average ranked 16th. Last year the Pirates ranked 10th in batting average at .248 and had the MLB’s second best ERA at 3.21.
Jeff Locke, who didn’t appear on the mound during the Chicago series, is the struggling man in the rotation. That could change soon. Locke has started five games this year, and the team has only won once during those outings.
If Locke continues this slide, Pittsburgh’s minor league affiliate Indianapolis Indians may be expecting a phone call in regards to Jameson Taillon. Through three starts, the Pirates’ top prospect has a 1.65 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP. He hasn’t allowed a single home run or walked a single batter, and he’s added 16 strike outs to that April résumé.