Pirates Sweep Best Record Holding Marlins; Maholm 3-0

Kevin AlquistContributor IApril 23, 2009

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 6:  Paul Maholm #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during Opening Day on April 6, 2009 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Pirates beat the Cardinals 6-4. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

With the Penguins leading their series with the Flyers three games to one, who would think I would rather write about the Pirates right now? It is getting late in the season for the Pirates to be over .500!

It is true, the Pittsburgh Pirates just swept the team holding the best record in baseball going into the series, not to mention the Marlins were riding a seven game hot streak. And in late April, the Bucs' are going for the top of the division!

It is hard to say where to start when listing the differences between this year and the previous seasons that cannot be counted on one set of hands. One is the quality of starting pitching the Pirates are getting, but on the offensive side of the game, it is the LaRoche brothers. Big brother Adam in particular.

April has been a dread for Adam in years past, but something is different this season. When LaRoche was questioned about his play by ESPN, all he wanted to talk about was the play of his team. This is a wonderful sign of an attitude adjustment.

"I think that proves we're a pretty good team and it's not just a fluke. You come in and play the best team in baseball and sweep them, that's saying something,"he said.

He is not the only one feeling the confidence coming from this ball club. Pirates ace Paul Maholm commented on the confidence the teams feels not coming to PNC Park "seven games under at this point."

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Maholm pitched a shutout until he gave up one run in the fourth, one run in the fifth, and two runs in the sixth. His ERA only rose to a 2.02, and his record remains perfect.

Another positive for Pittsburgh is the pitching of the bullpen. In this series alone the bullpen gave up only one run, when Tyler Yates gave up a home run to Cameron Maybin in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game.

Suddenly last years National League worst pitching staff has become intimidating to the opposition. Ross Ohlendorf kept zeros on the board on Monday, which ended as a 8-0 shut out for the Bucs'. Followed by a one run, three hit performance by Jeff Karstens. The sweep was sealed with the average, yet prevailing effort by Maholm today.

I don't want to jinx these Pirates, but the talent and desire is there. But that has been said in years past. The real test is consistent execution. Can they keep up the good work?

Time will tell.