At least the Pirates’ starter gave up fewer runs than the other guy. That was enough for an 11-9 victory over the Brewers last night.

Brad Lincoln gave up seven runs in 2.1 innings. That ordinarily means “loss,” but that wasn’t the case here.

That’s because Milwaukee’s Dave Bush gave up 10 runs in four innings. Nine of those came in the first inning, the first time in 117 years that the Bucs scored that many runs at home in the opening frame.

After that, it was a battle of the bullpens. The Brewers won this portion of the game, 2-1. That was enough to narrow, but not erase, the Pirates’ 10-7 lead, based on starters’ performances.

Although it’s a bit early to tell for sure, Brad Lincoln has been a bit of a disappointment so far. His debut game featured an acceptable, but by no means stellar, five runs in six innings.

Since then, he has been mostly uneven, going six or more innings in all but two games, but giving up many runs in the process, thereby posting a weak 6.29 ERA to date.

The Pirates have an abundance of “fifth” (and sixth) starter caliber pitchers. Besides Lincoln, there’s Dan McCutchen, Brian Burres, Charlie Morton, and Kevin Hart. Not to mention Jeff Karstens, who is at least a legitimate fifth starter.

Which is why trading Tom Gorzelanny (a potential first starter) for one of them (Hart) plus a second base prospect (Josh Harrison) last year, wasn’t such a good idea. The Bucs have more than enough quantity, and not enough quality.

Pittsburgh appears to be turning the corner, after a fashion, against the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that formerly dominated them. Last night showed that the Bucs can win at home, albeit in the worst way, against this team.

And earlier this year, the Pirates finally took two out of three in Miller Park, after having lost over twenty straight games on the other team’s home turf.

The most recent away series went 3-0 Milwaukee, all by one run. Meaning that a slightly stronger team could have WON three games.

If the Pirates have a chance to escape the cellar this year (or more likely, next), it’s because there are at least three other good candidates in the National League Central for this unenviable role.

One of them is the Milwaukee Brewers. Others include the Chicago Cubs (against whom the Bucs are 9-3 so far), and the Houston Astros, against whom the home team recently held its own, winning a series 2-1 in PNC Park.

The Pirates are a relatively young team, which is to say that they will likely get better over the next few years, before the prospect of losing their best players to free agency. The Brewers stand to lose Prince Fielder, and the other teams have similar issues.

By 2012, Pittsburgh may therefore be “in contention” for for the fourth, or even third place in the National League Central.


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