Offense coming alive for Pirates
Bucs score 28 runs in five September contests
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the pitching probables were released for this weekend's series, the Pirates were understandably pleased to be avoiding San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum, he of the 15-3 record and National League-leading 2.60 ERA.
At this point, it might be Lincecum who's happy to have missed the Pirates.
After closing August on a 10-game losing streak in which it scored only 2.8 runs per contest, Pittsburgh's slumbering offense has come to life in September. The Pirates have put up 28 runs in their first five games this month, including six or more in each of the last four games. They banged out 29 hits against the Giants' staff in two games.
"It was just a tough 10-game stretch where we just had a combination of things. We weren't getting on base, and when we were getting on base, we weren't hitting with runners in scoring position and things like that," center fielder Nate McLouth said. "I think it was just one of those little times you go through in baseball."
The August struggles were spurred at least in part by the departures of outfielders Xavier Nady (to the Yankees) and Jason Bay (to the Red Sox), who held the team's highest marks for OPS -- .919 for Nady, .894 for Bay.
"Obviously, things are different; things have changed," said second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who tied his career high with four hits Saturday. "We've got to turn the page and get things done with the group that we have."
It wasn't just the absence of Nady and Bay that hurt. It was also the adjustment of having new hitters take over in the 3-4-5 spots in the lineup that Nady and Bay had helped fill on a nightly basis.
"If you look at it like, 'We lost two of our big sticks, let's cash it in,' then as a group, that's what's going to happen," said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who moved up from sixth to mostly fourth and fifth in the batting order. "If you look at it like, 'All right, no big deal, let's move on,' then you have a chance to be successful. There'd been about a month where we just couldn't get anything going. Confidence was down, guys were trying too hard, and you just can't play like that."
The revamp also has given the Pirates the chance to inject more speed into the lineup by clearing the way for rookie outfielder Nyjer Morgan to hit leadoff.
Scoring runs isn't the only facet of the game, of course, which is why Pittsburgh was 3-2 through its first five games of September, instead of 5-0.
"I think we did some things well," LaRoche said. "Obviously, we didn't do everything great. We still came up short. The final result up here is still who wins and who loses, not how pretty it looked, not how you got it done. We scored some runs and we got some hits, but it still wasn't enough."
Geoff Lepper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.