Headed out of the All-Star Break our Pittsburgh Pirates are above .500 for the first time since 1992, I was year old at that time, and are giving fans hope that the Jolly Roger may fly high above the NL Central. But a game back of the Cards and a half game back of the slumping Brewers, the question becomes how do we get there.
First and foremost the offense has to get going. When one guy is leading you in every major offensive category, it may just be time for the rest of the team to step up and take some pressure off of him. Now this can be helped when guys like Jose Tabata, Steve Pearce and Pedro Alverezget back from injury. Pedro's biggest problem is getting behind in counts, this can remedied by making pitchers throw strikes instead of swinging at everything close to the plate. Tabata's problem has been he has been hitting the ball hard, but just right at people. While he has the strength to develop into a power hitter until he takes some of the levelness out of his swing and develops a slight uppercut he won't. Steve Pearce, as long as he can come back and hit lefties and take some pressure off of Lyle Overbay that will help a lot.
Secondly getting healthy. With the three aforementioned players there is Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder. When Doumit gets back sometime in the next few weeks that will add the pop that has been missing from the catcher spot. The return of Snyder will be late in the season and may not really have that much of a benefit to the team other than his contract coming off the books at the end of the season. Then there is Ross Ohlendorf, who when he comes back will be a solid addition to the Bullpen and cause either Tim Wood or Tony Watson to go back to AAA Indy.
Third the continued great starting pitching that we have been getting all year. The All-Star Break was a blessing to Charlie "Electric Stuff" Morton who had been dealing with shoulder fatigue in his last few starts. The extra days off should allow him to get back to his early season success. Paul Maholm should continue to benefit from an vastly improved defense as compared to last years roster. Pleasant suprise Jeff Karstens should contiue his excellent year as he has learned to become a pitcher; while he is due for some regression, based on his 17 HR 15 of which has been solo shots. James McDonald has been the enigma of this staff, he has the stuff to be dominant but for one reason or another he hasn't been able to get out of the 6th inning. Part of this has been control issues, other times it's just been one bad inning in which he threw a lot of pitches.
Fourth, contiued success against the division. To borrow a cherry picked stat for Klaw himself. The Pirates are 6-1 against teams named the Reds and against non-Houston teams they are 13-10. Now if only we would grow a pair and start to give the Brewers a taste of their own medicine.
Basically it boils down to a simple formula, beat the teams in your division, beat the teams you are supposed to beat and pray for a little luck that the teams in front of you stumble a long the way. That last one is almost a lock with the Brewers, considering until the Reds and Fransico Cordero showed up in Wisonsin, were starting to implode and the addition of K-Rod isn't really going to help that problem and may make it worse.