Pirates’ First Quarter Record Defies Logic if Not Description

The 21-19 record the Bucs took to San Diego doesn’t add up given all they’ve had to overcome. Perhaps there’s more to this team than meets the eye.

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Based on preseason projections and the manner in which the first 40 games have played out, the Pirates should be buried by now.

Instead, they arrived in San Diego for the final series of an 11-game road trip with their heads still above water.

The 21-19 record the Bucs somehow managed to amass through the season’s unofficial first quarter wasn’t enough to inspire the planning of a parade.

Still, it’s almost miraculous given some of the particulars the Pirates have had to endure.

Those included:

  • The guy who was supposed to be the horse of a dominating starting rotation, Jameson Taillon, winning two games and posting a 4.10 ERA before landing on the 60-day injured list.
  • A guy who was supposed to contribute significantly to that starting rotation’s perceived dominance, Chris Archer, winning once and registering a 5.58 ERA around a stint on the 10-day injured list.
  • The guy who would hopefully re-emerge as the starting third baseman and one of the primary sources of power on a team that figured to be challenged in that capacity, Jung Ho Kang, hit .133 and struck out 31 times in 90 at-bats before being placed on the 10-day injured list.
  • The guy who was acquired to become the starting shortstop, Erik Gonzalez, had as many errors as extra-base hits (three each) in 16 appearances before a trip to the 60-day injured list.
  • The guy who was supposed to be the starting left fielder and one of the veteran leaders, Corey Dickerson, played four games before ending up on the 10-day disabled list. When the Pirates departed Arizona for San Diego on Wednesday, Dickerson was still there.
  • The guy who was brought aboard to help compensate for Gregory Polanco’s delayed return from shoulder surgery, Lonnie Chisenhall, made zero appearances.
  • And the bullpen, another perceived area of strength along with the starting rotation, seemingly proved as likely to pour gasoline on the fire as extinguish the flames.

All of the above could have/should have been enough to sink the ship.

Instead, the Bucs have kept just enough cannonballs coming to stay relevant.

Josh Bell has had everything to do with that.

The Pirates were hoping he’d regain his power stroke entering the season. They weren’t counting on him becoming “Kiner-esque” or “Stargell-ian,” but Bell has been both. ​

Melky Cabrera and Jordan Lyles have also been veteran saviors.

Cole Tucker, despite residing below the Mendoza Line at the plate, and Bryan Reynolds have been rookie revelations.

And for all the leads they’ve blown after six innings, the Pirates have been almost as likely to rally when the sixth-inning tables have been turned.

That’s how you get to 21-19 despite being outscored by a combined 47 runs through 40 games.

Yet the Pirates’ story so far includes the intangible as well as the improbable.

That was apparent –– again –– on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The latest example was the reaction in the dugout to Tucker’s home town home run.

Upon being greeted by gleeful teammates, Tucker was captured by AT&T Sportsnet’s microphones and cameras saying, among other things, “I love you” to Dickerson.

“Dude, he’s been helping me so much, just keeping me on track, and just teaching me about, really trying to teach me what I need to be doing with my swing and my thoughts, my approach,” Tucker explained afterward to AT&T Sportsnet’s Robby Incmikoski. “We’ve just been talking, chatting it up and watching video.

“He’s a veteran who’s seen everything that I’m ever going to see in my career. For me to know that a guy like that has my back day in and day out means the world. Like, I love that guy, he’s awesome. I can’t wait for him to be back.”

Dickerson hadn’t played since April 3 but not only was he there, anyway, he’s apparently been there all along for a kid who wouldn’t even be in the big leagues had it not been for Gonzalez’ injury.

That’s the type of stuff you’d expect to see from a group of relatively nondescript individuals that’s in the process of becoming a team.

Or, perhaps, one that already has.

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section