PITTSBURGH, PA – APRIL 01: Colin Moran #19 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at the home opener at PNC Park on April 1, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Only three games into the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have shown flashes of greatness and horrid signs of mediocrity. Here are some early overreactions to the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates team.

Pirates Starting Rotation is Tops in the National League

Besides a poor seventh inning from Jameson Taillon on opening day, Pittsburgh’s starting rotation has been lights out. Before the three runs after the stretch, Taillon was cruising. He had allowed only one run on four hits with four strikeouts. Trevor Williams, the most underrated pitcher in Major League Baseball, pitched six strong innings without allowing a run. Striking out six and only suffering three hits, Williams earned his first win of the year.

Chris Archer looks like the Archer of old with his five innings of work. He struck out eight batters, typically with his brutal slider, gave up no runs, and only allowed two “hits.” Hits is in quotations because one of them was questionably a hit, but it looked more like an error on the third baseman. The fourth man in the rotation, Joe Musgrove, was slated to pitch on Sunday, but because of the postponement on Saturday, he was moved to this upcoming Wednesday. He was able to pitch two innings of relief on Sunday, striking out one while allowing no baserunners.

Defense Needs to be Better

The Pirates are averaging one error per game, including two in St. Louis’s comeback win Monday afternoon. Josh Bell, Colin Moran, and Erik Gonzalez all have a fielding error. Bell’s error did not lead to much, but Moran and Gonzalez’s errors could not have come at a worse time. Moran’s came in the middle of the Cardinals’ seventh-inning rally on Monday that forced Richard Rodriguez from the game. Gonzalez’s error got the rally started in the ninth for St. Louis and the Cardinals tied the game. St. Louis eventually won it in extra innings.

The defense has to be better. Besides the errors, JB Shuck looks lost in the outfield with balls dropping for doubles that could, and should, be caught. The Pirates cannot waste good starting pitching by having poor defense. Averaging an error each game is an unacceptable number, whether a team is three or thirty games into the season.

Richard Rodriguez’s Sophomore Slump

Last season as a rookie, Richard Rodriguez was very impressive in his 63 appearances during the final third of the season. He earned four wins with 69.1 innings pitched, amassed a 2.47 ERA, and struck out a whopping 88 batters. That is an average of 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. So far this season, he has made an appearance in both of Pittsburgh’s losses. He has only pitched one total inning but has been charged with four of the 11 runs allowed by the team. In both appearances, he gave up a home run that severely changed the momentum of the game.

It may be early, but Rodriguez has negatively affected his team during the opening week. If Clint Hurdle is smart, Rodriguez will not see the field for a few days.

Jung Ho Kang was named the starting third baseman during spring training, pushing Colin Moran to the bench. Moran responded with two hits, three RBI, two walks, and a home run in his first start on Monday. At short, Gonzalez only has two hits and has been underwhelming defensively, while Kang has proved more than competent at shortstop.

With Kang’s success two years ago and his incredible spring, he needs more big league at-bats. Hurdle should try using Kang at short, and you will instantly see a difference along with Moran at the hot corner.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

The Pirates need Gregory Polanco back. With the injury to Lonnie Chisenhall, the Pirates are left with Melky Cabrera, Shuck, and Pablo Reyes as their conveyer belt in right field. Shuck and Reyes should not be getting starts, and the switch-hitting Cabrera would be much better coming off the bench in situations that need some pop. If Polanco can get back by May and start hitting the ball the way he has in the past, this lineup will be deadly.

In summary, the Pirates are trying to build behind their starting rotation. They have an opportunity to win every time out with these pitchers. Now, the bullpen, defense, and offense need to figure themselves out. The Pirates will make a run at the Wild Card this season if they can iron themselves out. As mentioned above, it is still very early.

Pirates vs Cardinals….What Just Happened?

Pittsburgh played one of the more interesting games in recent history on April 1. To summarize, the game ended with three umpires as the home plate umpire was struck in the mask twice in one inning and had to exit. Meanwhile, Matt Carpenter, a typically even-kilter pillar of the Cardinals, was ejected in the 11th inning.

After Carpenter checked his swing on strike three, the home plate ump referred down to the third base umpire. Although it appeared as if Carpenter held up, the umpire said he swung. Carpenter pointed down at the umpire and shouted “You suck,” and was immediately ejected. To start the bottom of the 11th inning, nine-time Gold Glove catcher, Yadier Molina, played third base because the Cardinals bench was empty. It was also an interesting top of the 11th as Francisco Cervelli suffered a passed ball with the bases loaded, allowing the eventual winning run for the Cardinals to score. What a very odd game it turned out to be.

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