Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Pirates Go Fishing, Reel in Three Wins.

The Pittsburgh Pirates swept the Marlins in a three-game series this week, dropping the Marlins to a rough 11-4 record, and a mere four game lead in the NL East (and the only NL East team with a record above .500). Over the last three seasons, the Marlins have lost six of nine at PNC Park.

The Marlins hitters were stifled by Pittsburgh's staff, managing only six runs total in the series as the big bats were finally silenced. The heart of the Marlins order: Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Jorge Cantu combined to go 4-24 from the plate (and Cantu only had three of those at-bats).

Let's face it, we all knew the Marlins weren't going to go 161-1 this season, but this sweep didn't come at a great time for the Fish, either. Tomorrow they open up a three-game home series with the defending World Series champs, followed by a three-game series at the Mets. That's the next six games against the two teams almost everyone picked to make the playoffs from the NL East entering the season. Not to mention they have a four-game series at Wrigley after the Mets.

Hitting cold stretches in the lineup is expected to happen in a 162 game season, so it's understandable that the Marlins had toruble hitting the Pirates' pitchers. However, the Marlins do need to get better outings from their starting pitchers, who showed so much promise the first week of the season.

Over the last six games against the Nationals and the Pirates, the Marlins starters pitched 4, 6, 4.1, 4.2, 7, and 6 innings. The only quality outing of that bunch, arguably, was Anibal Sanchez with his 7-inning start where he only allowed 3 ER. In Ricky Nolasco's six innings Wednesday, he gave up 5 ER, and Josh Johnson's six innings against the Nationals, he gave up 6 runs in the first two innings, including a grand slam by Austin Kearns.

Now I'm not saying it's time to panic, because the season is young and the Marlins are still in first. But I'm sure plenty of people will be hopping off the bandwagon after the sweep by the Pirates(!). Because, let's face it, if you take away the ninth innings against the Nationals, the Marlins have played, all-around, arguably their worst baseball of this new season, yet still managed to win three of those games, and only lose one game off of their first-place lead following the Pirates sweep.

But the bats are going to have to wake up for this next stretch of games, and the starting pitching is going to have to produce more quality outings, because you can only work the bullpen so much before they start to bend.

Let's just see how the Marlins respond after getting their first day off since April 13.

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