The Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the worst run differentials in baseball through two weeks, but they also have something rarely seen for one of baseball’s most downtrodden franchises - a winning record.
The Pirates have made a habit of winning close games thus far, and they’ll hope to build on the momentum of a three-game sweep Tuesday night at PNC Park as they welcome the Milwaukee Brewers for the first of three.
In the midst of 17 consecutive losing seasons, Pittsburgh (7-5) hasn’t held a winning record very often at any point, but being two games above .500 so far in 2010 is particularly improbable.
The Pirates have been outscored by 22 runs, and each of their five losses has been by at least six runs. But they’ve won four times by one run and added another tight victory Sunday, finishing a sweep of visiting Cincinnati with a 5-3 victory.
“That kind of run differential tells us we shouldn’t have won a game,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “It’s been an odd year. Typically, the more runs you score, the fewer runs you give up, the more games you win. But it doesn’t always hold true. … When our pitchers are giving us a chance to win, we’ve won.”
The first pitcher the Brewers (5-7) will see hasn’t given Pittsburgh much of a chance in his first two starts. Charlie Morton(notes) (0-2, 13.50 ERA) gave up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings in a 9-1 loss at Arizona on April 9, then allowed six runs - all on three homers - over six innings in a 6-0 loss at San Francisco on Wednesday.
“I don’t know,” Morton told the Pirates’ official website. “There were things (against the Giants) that were positive, but they’ve been two horrible outings.”
Morton, who’s 0-2 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against Milwaukee, might find a more positive outlook in his home debut. The right-hander was 3-4 with a 3.10 ERA at PNC Park after coming over from Atlanta last season, but he’s 2-7 with a 7.26 ERA in his last 12 road starts.
The Pirates’ sweep against Cincinnati was their first since the Brewers visited from Aug. 17-19. Pittsburgh, which had lost 18 of 20 to Milwaukee prior to that, was 24-52 against the NL Central last season.
The Brewers enter the final leg of a nine-game road trip having dropped two of three on each of their two stops. They’ll at least have a little momentum, however, after riding a franchise-record 10-run first inning to an 11-7 win Sunday at Washington.
Milwaukee was held to four hits in an 8-0 loss Saturday.
“We were just kind of laughing about how it shows what a crazy game baseball is,” said shortstop Craig Counsell(notes), who hit his first grand slam since 1998. “Couldn’t buy a hit (Saturday), and the floodgates open the very next day.”
The Brewers have given up at least five runs in 11 of 12 games and they’ve dropped all four series openers, trends Pittsburgh native Dave Bush(notes) (0-0, 3.86) will try to end Tuesday. The right-hander has been in line for wins when he’s left both starts only to watch the bullpen lose them. He gave up two runs over six innings in a 7-6 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday.
“I try to give us the best chance to win, and through the course of the year, those things will work out more often than not,” said Bush, who’s 1-2 with a 5.20 ERA over five starts in Pittsburgh.