The Pittsburgh Pirates have surged to close out the month of May after struggling for over a month. The Bucs have treaded water in the National League Central division despite a glaring lack of offense and little help from ace starter Francisco Liriano. The Pirates ace addressed one of those concerns Friday night as he finally picked up his first win of the season Friday night against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Liriano outdueled Josh Beckett as the Pirates defeated the Dodgers 2-1 for the second consecutive night and closed to within seven games of the Milwaukee Brewers in the loss column. Manager Clint Hurdle’s team has now won seven of their last 10 games and moved into third place in the NL Central. The win was big not only for the Pirates but for Liriano as well. The left-hander was winless in 2014 after going 16-8 in 2013.
“I’m not doing my job at all,” Liriano had said before Friday night’s game. “I’m not going deep into the game, and I’m not keeping the team in the ballgame.”
Pitcher of The Month – Gerrit Cole has been the steady hand for the Pirates while Liriano has tried to find his way. The 23-year old right hander was thought to eventually be the ace of the pitching his staff but given his performance and Liriano’s lack of performance he has taken over that role for the moment. That is a lot for a young pitcher but Cole has been up to the challenge so far, posting a record of 5-3 with 63 strikeouts in 71 innings. The needle is pointing up for Cole and the Pirates if he can continue this trajectory.
Player of The Month – Neil Walker. It is hard to imagine anyone but Andrew McCutchen being the top player when when the Pirates center fielder is hitting .303 but McCutchen is pitched around so much his greatness at the plate has been muted thus far in 2014. Walker has 10 home runs on the season, six more than McCutchen and he also leads the team in RBI with 29 as well as runs scored and hits. Again, McCutchen has been walked 42 times this season but the only player on the Pirates roster who has made other teams pay for avoiding McCutchen is Walker.
Where do they go from here? – Maybe Pirates general manager Neil Huntington’s plan is going to work. With the Pirates surge to close out May, the Brewers cooling off since their torrid start to the season and the St.Louis Cardinals still struggling at the plate, the NL Central is still very winnable. Huntington gamble to not call up super prospect Gregory Polanco until after the Super Two deadlines passes in mid-June but if Pittsburgh may pay off. Polanco is currently the top prospect in baseball and is expected to make an immediate impact upon his arrival. Hurdle surely would have liked to have seen the young outfielder up with the Pirates weeks ago but if the Bucs can stay within striking distance Polanco is a difference making kind of talent.
Suddenly a frustrating season shows some promise. The Pirates have surged as May comes to a close, Francisco Liriano has finally won his first game of 2014 and the countdown to Gregory Polanco is just a couple weeks out.
Commentary By Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Pittsburgh Pirates