Surprise, surprise! The Bucs top the NL Central standings heading into play on July 20. Oh yeah, and cows can fly too...
Checked the standings today and saw that the Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place. Fainted. Checked it again, and saw that it wasn't a joke. Fainted again.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo commented on the Bucs solid play of late on KNBR 680 in San Francisco this morning.
"It's been pitching," said Mayo. "That's the simple and correct answer. I think entering the year I thought they would be improved, but mostly because they would take some steps forward offensively."
Turns out it hasn't been the swashbuckling bats at all (no offense Jose Tabata). It's been the pitching, says Mayo. "I don't know if there has been a better pitching staff top to bottom than this one. They have one of the better bullpens, they have for my money one of the best closers in baseball in Joel Hanrahan, and the starters are going deep pretty much every time out."
He's right. The Bucs are currently 8th in the majors with a combined 3.37 ERA. Jeff Karstens, who will take the hill today as the Bucs look for the sweep against Cincinnati, is 8-4 with a 2.34 ERA. When you look at his career numbers (20-31 with a 4.41) you have to drink some water to keep from fainting -- again.
"Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens have been among the biggest surprises in the National League, period," said Mayo. "People are coming to see them play, and it's been a lot of fun."