A New Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh?

Jason McGovernCorrespondent IApril 20, 2009

When you think of defense and Pittsburgh, the one thing that comes to mind is the Steelers—possibly even the Penguins with the way Marc-Andre Fleury has been guarding the net—but certainly not the Pirates.

Tonight, the Pittsburgh Pirates earned their league leading fourth shutout—all in the past seven games and the team’s third in their past four outings. Last year they didn't chalk up their fourth shutout until August 1st.

In the words of Kanye West: “It's amazin', so amazin'.”

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a pitching staff? When did this happen? How did this happen?

Last season they ended the season ranked 28th in the league with an ERA of over five runs per game. The season before that they finished 26th, allowing just under five per game.

Obviously it's too early to tell if they can sustain it, but so far this season the Pirates are ranked fifth in team ERA (3.34)—and that was before tonight's shutout.

After blanking the Braves twice in the past three days, Pittsburgh hosted the Florida Marlins—owners of the league's best record (11-1) coming into tonight's contest.

Ross Ohlendorf pitched seven innings for the Bucs, striking out five and walking one, while allowing just two hits. Tyler Yates and Jesse Chavez each pitched an inning of hitless baseball to preserve the Pirates' 8-0 victory to lift them over .500 again.

In each of their four shutouts, the Pirate starters have allowed four or less hits and lasted at least the seven innings including Zach Duke pitching a complete game four hitter against the Houston Astros.

To spin some perspective on it, neither Atlanta nor Florida have been shutout by any other team so far.

The Pirates are currently 7-6, which is the same record they had at this time last year before they promptly went into a six game slide.

So while fans have reason to be optimistic, young teams like this have a bad tendency to follow up success with streaks of futility, which has haunted this franchise for the past umpteen years.

But for now, if you're a fan, enjoy the fact that your team has outscored the opposition 21-0 in three of their past four games.