Raise the Jolly Roger! Pittsburgh Pirates Clicking on All Cylinders

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates' Gregory Polanco (25) is greeted by teammates in the dugout after hitting a three-run home run against the New York Mets in the fifth inning of a baseball game  Thursday, June 26, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Pirates entered a three-game series Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks knowing they were playing great baseball lately, having won seven of the team's last nine games.  

Thanks to a late offensive surge Monday, the Pirates have now gone 8-2 in their last 10 games, as they defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.  

Arizona's Wade Miley was dominant, keeping the Pirates scoreless through the first eight innings. Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke was impressive as well, allowing two runs in 8.0 innings pitched.  

With his team leading 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, Miley headed back out of the dugout and onto the mound, looking to notch his first major league complete game shutout.  

However, the Pirates have showed us all the team's theme in 2014 is the tendency to come alive late. 

After reaching the postseason for the first time since 1992 in 2013, Pittsburgh got off to a poor start this season, going 23-27 through its first 50 games.  

Now, we are witnessing a great turnaround as the Pirates have climbed to three games over .500 with a record of 43-40.  

When the Pirates stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, they looked like a completely different team compared to the first eight innings.  

There are a lot of factors that have contributed to the team's recent surge, and we had the chance to see the majority of them in action in the final inning Monday.  

Leading off the bottom of the inning was Neil Walker, who has very quietly risen to the occasion of being a team leader in Pittsburgh. Walker got the ball rolling by singling to center field, putting the tying run at the plate for the next factor.  

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The major league debut of rookie phenom Gregory Polanco had been highly anticipated by fans all over the country due to the great things they heard about him. Instead of having a "do-it-myself" approach, Polanco showed his discipline at the plate by slapping Miley's pitch into center field for another single.  

With the pinch-hit single, Polanco raised his batting average to .296 with 24 hits through his first 20 games played. He has provided the type of spark so far for the Pirates that Yasiel Puig did in 2013 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

After Addison Reed replaced Miley with runners on first and second and no one out, one of the biggest surprises in the entire league stepped up to the plate.  

Josh Harrison played just 60 games in 2013 with the Pirates, batting .250 with three home runs. In 2014, he has already played in 67 games with a batting average of .300. The hot hitter is making his case for a ticket to his first-ever All-Star Game in Minnesota on July 15.  

Harrison showed the Pirates have the ability to win games by playing small-ball, and his sacrifice fly to center field put runners on the corners with just one out.  

Still, the Diamondbacks were just a ground ball away from turning a game-ending double play and ending the Pirates' winning streak.  

With the game on the line, the Pirates stuck with Starling Marte at the plate, and he came through for his club, driving in both runners on base with a double to center field. Marte had a great season in 2013, batting .280 in 135 games and being one of the main reasons the Pirates made the postseason.  

Neil Walker and Gregory Polanco celebrate after scoring on Marte's double.
Neil Walker and Gregory Polanco celebrate after scoring on Marte's double.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

However, Marte is just another example of the Pirates' late surge, as he struggled mightily early on this season. After going 0-3 in a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 8, Marte's batting average dropped to a poor .230 on the season.  

Since then he has been on fire, hitting safely in 14 of his last 17 games played. He also has six multi-hit games during that span, as opposing pitchers have had trouble keeping him off the bases.  

After intentionally walking reigning National League Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen, Ike Davis replaced Gaby Sanchez as a pinch hitter.  

Davis has fit in well in Pittsburgh after being traded by the New York Mets in early April. On Monday night in Pittsburgh, he got his first glimpse of Pirates glory, as his pinch-hit single propelled his team to a dramatic comeback victory.  

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

To add onto the impressive performance on offense when the team needed it the most, the Pirates are welcoming the newly acquired Ernesto Frieri with open arms.  

After former closer Jason Grilli had struggled mightily both to stay healthy and to perform, the Pirates traded him to the Los Angeles Angels for Frieri, who had also struggled as the closer for his team.  

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 09:  Pitcher Ernesto Frieri #49 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim celebrates after getting the last out in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics during the MLB game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 9, 2014 in Anaheim, Cal
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Since his arrival in Pittsburgh, Frieri has thrived out of the bullpen, throwing a pair of scoreless innings in two appearances. He also notched his first win as a Pirate Monday night.  

It is safe to say the Pirates are clicking on all cylinders right now as a team, as they have put themselves right back into the mix of teams that will be in the hunt for a berth in the playoffs.  

Sure, it may have taken the Pirates more time to get going than they would have liked, but they have come alive with plenty of games left to play. One thing is for sure about the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates: they will never just roll over and die, and they will scratch runs across the plate in many different ways.  

The Pirates are currently rolling, and it looks like they won't be stopping any time soon.   


*Statistics Courtesy of MLB.com.