Can Pirates Keep Winning Despite Mounting Injuries?
In case you've missed it, the Pirates not only have a winning record, they're 11-7, the first time the team has had any significant buffer above the .500 mark since 2002. Sure, it's early, but the Pirates pitching is carrying the team.
That may not be a foregone conclusion for much longer. With cleanup hitter -- and starting catcher -- Ryan Doumit on the disabled list, two of the Pirates other big boppers, center fielder Nate McLouth and shortstop Jack WIlson, are also headed for at least a short spell out of the game.
Wilson is missing time with a sprained middle finger on his left, catching hand, while McLouth is as close to day-to-day as you can get this early in the season, though Pittsburgh is openly being overly cautious because of his strained right oblique muscle.
Eventually, Doumit, McLouth and Wilson will all return. The question is whether the Pirates' young pitchers can keep the team sailing forward until they get back.
For now, that isn't a huge problem, but it seems far fetched to assume that Adam LaRoche, Robinzon Diaz and Brian Bixler can keep cranking out runs the way they did on Sunday against Jake Peavy.
That puts the onus squarely back on pitching, with pressure on Joe Kerrigan's charges to deliver the kind of quality starts they've been throwing out there for the first month of the season. Clearly, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm look like they're back on track. Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens appear to be pitching with more confidence then they ever did in pinstripes, and there's no reason to believe that will stop overnight.
But what happens when the Pirates hit a spell where they score three runs in three games ... combined? What happens when four straight pitchers take a bad beat despite putting up a quality outing?
It's uncharted territory for a young team that has emerged as one of baseball's best stories early in the season, and it bears close watching moving forward, at least until Doumit, McLouth, Wilson or all of thee above find their way back into the lineup.
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