Hurdle: Bullpen has Pirates 'in a good place'

Hurdle: Bullpen has Pirates 'in a good place'

Hurdle: Bullpen has Pirates 'in a good place'
PITTSBURGH -- Behind so many of the Bucs' 54 wins this year has been the bullpen, a reliable unit that has contributed as much to the team's competitive place in the standings as anything else.

Coming into Monday's series opener against the Cubs, the Pirates' relievers ranked second in the Major Leagues with a 2.58 ERA. They had allowed just 16.7 percent of inherited runners to score, the lowest rate in the Majors.

As a whole, the bullpen had recorded 35 saves and posted an 85.4 save percentage, leading both leagues in both categories. Six Pirates pitchers have recorded saves this season.

Those numbers might shock the casual fan, but nothing about the bullpen's success has been surreal to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

"They've been on an incredible roll," Hurdle said on Monday. "Right now, we're in a very good place. These guys are making pitches. We're getting outs. That's what you're looking for."

Hurdle's bullpen hasn't allowed a run in 13 2/3 innings spread across five games. The relievers have stranded each of their last 11 inherited baserunners.

The bullpen underwent some changes recently, as Juan Cruz was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with right shoulder inflammation. In his place, the Pirates recalled righty Evan Meek from Triple-A Indianapolis, where the reliever posted a 2.21 ERA over 36 2/3 innings.

"I'm just going to try to bring what I was doing down there back up here and help the team out," said Meek, who's thrilled to be a part of what's happening in Pittsburgh. "When you look at the guys that are in the bullpen, it's a good 'pen."

In talking about Pittsburgh's relievers, Meek mentioned everybody, including closer Joel Hanrahan and setup man Jason Grilli, both of whom have received plenty of recognition this year, and rightfully so. But the two guys Meek has been particularly impressed with are Jared Hughes and Tony Watson, specifically for the job they've done replacing starters in sticky situations.

"That was my role two years ago; they're doing the same thing, and they're just doing a great job," Meek said. "And they've got awesome stuff. I mean, if you watch them pitch, they just throw strikes and they know what they're doing."

He continued: "The 'pen is awesome. And it's great for the starters, because the starters know, 'Hey, if I can go five or six innings with the lead, there's a good chance we're going to win this game because of what we have down there.'"