2012 Pittsburgh Pirates
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2012 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Managed by Clint Hurdle
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates did not score or allow more than 5 runs in any of their first 18 games. No team had done 10 in a row to being the year since the 1988 Rangers. The NL record had been 16, set by the 1965 Pirates, while the 1943 Tigers had held the MLB mark of 17.
On May 3rd, Pirates hurlers combined for 17 strikeouts, the most for a Pittsburgh club in a game since July 6, 1980. Erik Bedard fanned 11, then Jared Hughes, Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan each added at least one. Just 3 days later, the Bucs were on the other end, striking out 17 times against Mat Latos and three Reds relievers, tying the franchise record for a 9-inning game (last done in 1997).
The Bucs were 25-25 through the end of May despite one of the worst offenses (whether in runs or average) in baseball annals. They were hitting .218/.272/.346 as a club with 147 runs for under 3 runs per game. It would have been much worse without Andrew McCutchen, one of the NL's top performers at .331/.389/.541 with 8 homers, 10 steals, 28 runs and 25 RBI. His 155 OPS+ was the only OPS+ on the club over 100. Half the starters had OPS+es under 65: SS Clint Barmes (.170/.196/.270, 28 OPS+), 1B Casey McGehee (.190/.281/.250, 49), LF Alex Presley (.220/.246/.305, 52) and RF José Tabata (.216/.268/.327, 64). To try to help out, the Bucs had called up SS Jordy Mercer and 1B Matt Hague (both of whom would be sent down after failing in brief trials). On the other hand, to be .500, the Pirates had obviously had top-notch pitching. The team ERA was 3.25, third in the league, with strong work put in by James McDonald (4-2, 2.20, 44 H in 65 1/3 IP), Erik Bedard (3-5, 3.12), Joel Hanrahan (2-0, 13 Sv, 2.37), Jason Grilli (1-1, 1.80), Juan Cruz (1-1, 3 Sv, 1.45), Brad Lincoln (3-0, 1.07) and Jared Hughes (1-0, 2.22).
After doing so little in April and May (the worst in all of the majors), the offense exploded in June, leading the major leagues in runs that month. By month's end, the Bucs even led the NL in road home runs for the season. On July 3rd, they moved into a tie for first place on a walk-off homer by waiver acquisition Drew Sutton. Sutton was then at .407/.448/.704 after 8 games with the club. McCutchen (.360/.411/.612, 16 HR, 52 R, 54 RBI) had turned it up even another notch and was NL Player of the Month in June while ranking second in the NL in OPS and first in the majors in average. The rest of the team was showing big strides, too, though, with 1B/OF Garrett Jones (.270/.296/.520, 12 HR, 122 OPS+), 3B Pedro Alvarez (.274/.306/.481, 15 HR, 46 RBI, 116 OPS+) and 2B Neil Walker (.276/.341/.383, 102 OPS+) all going over 100 OPS+. Only Barmes (.203/.228/.303) and Tabata (.230/.295/.341) remained under 80 OPS+ among the starters, causing Tabata to be sent down. The pitching had fallen a bit, to a 3.55 ERA, 5th in the league, but McDonald (8-3, 2.45) remained among the ERA leaders and Burnett was among the win leaders (9-2, 3.74). The back end of the rotation was struggling with Bedard down to 4-9, 4.57 and Kevin Correia at 4-6, 4.32 with no set 5th starter emerging. The top four relievers remained hot: Hanrahan (4-0, 20 Sv, 2.32), Hughes (2-0, Sv, 2.20), Grilli (1-2, Sv, 1.99) and Cruz (1-1, 3 Sv, 2.54). Pittsburgh won their next two games to complete their first four-game sweep since 2006 and move 10 games over .500, the best the Bucs had been since their last winning season, in 1992.
At the trading deadline, Pittsburgh pulled off a number of moves, adding Wandy Rodriguez to the rotation, Travis Snider as a corner outfielder and Gaby Sanchez as a platoon first baseman as well as a couple other players while sending away Lincoln, McGehee, Gorkys Hernandez, Rudy Owens, Colton Cain and Robbie Grossman. As of August 2nd, Pittsburgh had the 5th-best record in baseball at 60-44, but were still behind the Reds in the NL Central. They were leading the wild card race, however. McCutchen was up to a whopping 197 OPS+ with a batting line of .373/.432/.632, and repeated as Player of the Month in July, while Walker also had a strong month and was up to .291/.358/.444. Their catchers, Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry, had combined for 18 home runs as well. Burnett (13-3, 3.27) was fresh off a near no-hitter (4 outs away) and Jeff Karstens (4-2, 3.70) was recuperating well from injury, but first-half ace James McDonald had been roughed up in the second half and Bedard had fallen to 5-12, 4.83 and was leading the league in losses.
Having played the longest game of the 2011 season, a heart-breaking 19-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves that was decided on a blown call by the home plate umpire and which marked the start of the team's descent into the doldrums, the Pirates were at it again on August 19th. Their 19-inning marathon with the St. Louis Cardinals that day was the longest game in the majors since the previous year's heart-breaker. The game was made even more epic by the stakes, with the two teams battling each other for a wild card spot. Tied 2-2 after 9, the two teams kept at it until the 17th inning, when P James McDonald, used as a pinch-hitter for Jared Hughes, singled and eventually came in to score on Garrett Jones' infield squibbler off the glove of Marc Rzepczynski. But Juan Cruz was unable to close out the game, and the two teams continued for another two innings, when Pedro Alvarez hit a solo homer off Barret Browning and Andrew McCutchen added a pair of insurance runs on a bases-loaded single. By that point, Wandy Rodriguez, scheduled to be the next day's starter, was in the game, and he completed a second scoreless inning to be credited with a 6-3 win that had taken 6 hours and 7 minutes to play. In the end, it was Kevin Correia, who had also pitched two innings of relief in the marathon, who got the starting assignment the next day in San Diego; it was the first time a Pirates pitcher was relieving and starting on consecutive days since Pascual Perez in 1981. A couple of young pitchers, Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson, made their major league debut that day to also help out the tired pitching staff.
The addition of Kyle McPherson and Daniel McCutchen (who had been called up three times before appearing in a game) made Pittsburgh the first team with seven "Mc"s in baseball history, breaking the record of six by the 1884 Washington Nationals UA. They had Andrew and Daniel McCutchen, McDonald, McGehee, McKenry, McLouth and McPherson.
With a late-season collapse following the 19-inning game (just as in 2011), Pittsburgh fell out of playoff contention, being officially eliminated on September 26th. Two days later, they were no-hit by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0. Despite their years of woe, the Bucs had not been no-hit since Bob Gibson in 1971; only two teams had longer active stretches at that point than Pittsburgh's 6,541 between no-nos. Much more painful was a 4-3 loss to the Reds on September 30th, that guaranteed the Bucs a 20th straight losing season; that result was particularly galling given the team was 16 games over .500 as late as August 6th. More galling were the facts that it was Joel Hanrahan's first blown save of the year and two ex-Pirates (Ryan Ludwick and Xavier Paul) played key roles for the Reds.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Joel Hanrahan and Andrew McCutchen
- NL Gold Glove Award: Andrew McCutchen (CF)
- NL Silver Slugger Award: Andrew McCutchen (OF)