ATLANTA -- The Pirates haven't yet seen everything they envisioned for the 2012 season. But the anticipated power punch to the rotation by newcomers A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard? As advertised.
Burnett picked up eight strikeouts in six innings on Friday, and Bedard followed with nine punchouts in five innings on Saturday. The Pirates wound up with a staff total of 22 strikeouts in the two games -- exceeding anything in back-to-back games in 2011.
"We talked about what we'll see from the two guys we were adding, and it has come into play. It definitely helps," said manager Clint Hurdle, who as a hitter during his playing days, recognizes the practical and demoralizing value of the strikeout.
"Over time, it wears down an offense. It frustrates hitters. Nobody likes to swing and miss," Hurdle said. "And it keeps you away from situations where productive outs can manufacture runs.
"Strikeouts and pop flies are the easiest outs recorded in baseball. No plays need to be made."
A little conflict is at play here, because Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage are also huge advocates of quick outs -- those requiring three pitches or fewer. Obviously, relatively few strikeouts are three-and-done.
"If it take six pitches to get a strikeout, yes, there's a toll," Hurdle said. "Retiring guys in three pitches or less really gets you to a good place, an opportunity to pitch deep into a game and use your bullpen to an advantage."