One moment in particular struck me about the Pirates’ 5-4 win in Milwaukee on Sunday. If Wandy Rodriguez had been able to retire Norichika Aoki or Jean Segura or Ryan Braun in the 5th inning, the Bucs would have exited Miller Park having given up only five total runs in the three-game series.
You can play the “if, and, but” game all day long, certainly, and the Brewers have a very good top of the lineup for a reason. But what that sequence tells me is that the Pirates had a tremendous weekend at their usual haunted house, and that they are on a roll in preventing runs.
Bill Brink from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted out this stat after the game:
#Pirates have not allowed more than four runs in 12 consecutive games.
— Bill Brink (@Bill_Brink2) May 27, 2013
Let’s put those numbers into some context. The Pirates are the only team this season to go more than 10 straight games allowing four runs or fewer, and this is the franchise’s longest such streak since doing it for 15 straight games in May 2005 (with a combination of Josh Fogg, Kip Wells, Mark Redman, David Williams and Oliver Perez)
The franchise record, at least as far as Baseball-Reference’s Play Index goes back to 1916, is 18 straight games set by the 1968 Pirates (Al McBean, Bob Veale, Steve Blass, Jim Bunning, Al McBean, Bob Moose and Luke Walker). You may recognize 1968 as the last year the pitcher’s mound was 15 inches high instead of its current 10 inches to increase offense.
This group of Jeanmar Gomez, Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Rodriguez and the bullpen have been phenomenal the last two weeks, but how long will it take until this streak reaches Major League records?
Longest Streaks with Four Runs or Fewer (Since 1969)
1. **2010 Giants (23 straight games)
1. 1972 Cubs (23 games)
3. 1981 Athletics (21 games)
4. 2002 Diamondbacks (20 games)
4. *1979 Orioles (20 games)
4. 1970-71 Angels (20 games)
7. 1973 Cardinals (19 games)
*American League Champions
** World Champions
(Courtesy of Baseball-Reference’s Play Index)
One commonality between those two streaks: neither Pirates team used that run-prevention to win games. The 2005 Bucs had an 8-7 record during the run, and the 1968 team went 9-9. On the other hand, the current Pirates used their strong pitching and defense, plus some below-average competition, to go 10-2 over the 12-game streak. Despite an offense that has underachieved, the 2013 Bucs are better offensively than the 2005 version and have a chance to be better than the 1968 team that finished 80-82.
If you wanted to expand a little, you could also say the Pirates have not allowed more than five runs in 19 consecutive games, which is also a very nice run of success. Over those 19 games, the Bucs have gone 14-5. Yes, playing the Brewers, Cubs, Astros, Mets and Mariners over that span takes some of the shine off, but no one can say the Pirates did not take advantage of a relatively easy slate.
Now it gets more difficult: a four-game home-and-home series vs. Detroit, three games vs. Cincinnati and three games at Atlanta over the next 10 days. All of those teams feature strong offenses, and represent a significant test for the Pirates and their winning ways. If the pitchers and the defense can continue to shut opponents down, these Pirates will look more and more like a true contender.