Left-hander Erik Bedard was impressive in the strikeout department in the Pirates 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. Over 5.0 innings, Bedard struck out 11 Cardinals, which included a span of seven straight batters.
“It was so fun to watch because all last year we had a pitch to contact staff,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “You’re talking about a better offensive club. There is no better way to stop an offensive club then to set them down…Erik even made the comment after the game. He said, ‘I wasn’t even aware of it. I was just making pitches.’ I said, ‘Well, you just keep pitching. We’ll count them. You just keep taking care of it.’”
With 11 strikeouts in his start Thursday and nine K’s in his previous outing, Bedard is the first Pirates pitcher to record at least 20 strikeouts over two consecutive starts since Oliver Perez in September 2004 (21). Bedard is also the first Pittsburgh hurler to win two straight starts while fanning at least 20 batters since Francisco Cordova in August 1999 (courtesy Elias Sports Bureau).
Entering game action on Friday, the Pirates pitching staff has combined for 182 whiffs over 216.0 innings, which is ranked 10th-best in the National League. The club added two pitchers in A.J. Burnett and Bedard, who have been strikeout guys in the past.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage,” Hurdle said on the fact that neither pitcher pitched in the NL last season. ” It could be some of that. It could be the fact that they do have swing and miss stuff.”
“You saw the evolution of James McDonald in Atlanta where he punched out 10. That hadn’t happened before. His confidence is building. We’ve got some guys in the bullpen that can strikeout people. That’s staying in play. It’s just the ability of the starters. The two that we’ve added has obviously been the biggest surge, and then James’ development. When Charlie’s [Morton] got his good power sinker and the breaking ball combination there’s swing and miss stuff there as well. They’re just maturing, reading swings better.”
- McCutchen Out: All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen is not in the lineup tonight due to flu-like symptoms. He was removed from the game in the fourth inning yesterday. Although, if he’s feeling better, he could be used later in the game off the bench.
- Pirates Lineup: Jose Tabata 9, Alex Presley 7, Nate McLouth 8, Neil Walker 4, Pedro Alvarez 5, Garrett Jones 3, Clint Barmes 6, Rod Barajas 2, Kevin Correia 1
- The bucco bats are heating up: The Pirates have scored 25 runs in their last four games (6.3 per game average) after scoring 49 runs in their first 21 contests (2.3 per game average). Also, the Bucs are hitting .280 (94-for-336) in their last 10 games and are 6-0 this season when collecting 10 or more hits in a game.
- El Toro strikes again..and again…and again…: Beginning with the action on April 25, Pedro Alvarez leads the Major Leagues with nine extra-base hits…His five home runs in that time are tied with Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez for the most in the Majors and his 10 RBI rank fourth among all big league players (Gonzalez leads with 14).
- Solid work from the ‘pen: Pittsburgh’s bullpen has allowed one run in the last two games (9.1ip) to lower its ERA to 2.80 on the season. The only two teams in the National League with a lower bullpen ERA are Cincinnati (2.54) and San Diego (2.56).
- Bucs Starter: Kevin Correia is making his fifth start of the season, the second at PNC Park. The right-hander has pitched 6.0 innings in three of his first four outings. During his last trip to the mound, Correia threw 101 pitches over 4.1 innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits with five walks and no strikeouts. The 31-year-old has allowed just one hit in 16 at bats (.063 average) this season with runners in scoring position.
“Kevin’s coming off an outing where it was very oxymoronic,” Hurdle said. “He had no strikeouts and five walks. That’s only happened a couple times in his career, not that he’s a punch-out pitcher, he’s a pitch to contact guy.. I look for him to bounce back, attack the strike zone. He knows these guys, so there’s no unknowns in this game.”
- Cincinnati Reds lineup: Zack Cozart 6, Drew Stubbs 8, Joey Votto 3, Brandon Phillips 4, Jay Bruce 9, Scott Rolen 5, Chris Heisey 7, Ryan Hanigan 2, Johnny Cueto 1
“We go out and try to win every game,” Hurdle said. “It’s always important to come in with a win or to string some wins together. Unfortunately, the other teams got a lot to say about that also, and that guy on the mound. We’ve been scratching and clawing since opening day. I don’t anticipate anything different this homestand. We’re facing a club right now that’s trying to find their rhythm as well. They’re throwing three good starters at as. We’ve had some history with these guys that has fared pretty well on our side. But again, we’ve got to go out and play tonight. Cueto is on a roll himself, but we’re definitely looking forward to being home. Being home for three series. We need to use that to our advantage.”