As frustrating as it was to watch the Pirates play in Milwaukee in early May, that's how enjoyable the most recent series was to view. The Pirates took three of four from the first-place Brewers, and will look to go into the All-Star break on a high note against the red-hot Cubs this weekend. The final two wins against the Brewers were led by strong starting pitching, timely power, and an efficient bullpen. The team also continued to play strong defense.
Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny are becoming one of the best pitching tandems in the National League. On Wednesday, Snell gave up back-to-back singles followed by a three-run home run to start the game. But he calmed down after that, holding the Brewers scoreless for eight innings. Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche each hit a two-run homer and Matt Capps pitched the ninth inning for the save. The Pirates won, 5-3.
On Thursday, Gorzelanny's command was not sharp. But he still produced a quality start, allowing three runs in seven innings. Again, Doumit and LaRoche produced the bulk of the offense. Doumit led off the second inning with a blast into the brush beyond the centerfield fence. LaRoche added a two-run shot in the third. He followed with a one-out double off the Clemente wall in the fifth, eventually scoring on an Xavier Nady single. But he was not done. With two outs in the seventh, LaRoche worked a 3-1 count. He won the battle, launching his second home run of the game into the rightfield seats. Chacon and Capps kept the Brewers' bats quiet, and the Pirates took the series with a 6-3 victory.
Adam LaRoche is absolutely killing the ball right now. He is on one of those streaks in which you are worried about missing an at-bat, because you know you might miss a homer. He also seems to be evolving into a clubhouse leader. I love his quote from today's PG:
"A team's approach never should change. To me, if this was a perfect clubhouse, you wouldn't be able to tell when times are good or bad. I've been saying that all season, and I don't think a lot of guys get it. You come in here, go about your business and win. You don't celebrate. You don't throw a big party because we just won a series."
It is very refreshing to hear a Pirate speak that way. We all get tired of hearing Pirate players and management gushing about how well the team is doing when they are 10 or 20 games under .500. At some point we all need to stop setting mediocrity as the goal.