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Bucs' bats starting to break through

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PITTSBURGH -- Now that Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin have shown some long-ball life, is the Pirates' lineup two steps closer to realizing its full potential?

"That's a start," manager Clint Hurdle said after watching both key men slug their first homers of the season in Thursday night's 6-4 loss to Atlanta. "We'll see where it takes us. [Alvarez's 448-foot homer] will take your breath away, and I also like the way Martin swung the bat."

Martin picked up 50 percent of his hits output of the early season with the home run and an infield single -- the only one of the Bucs' seven hits that did not go for extra bases.

The Bucs had entered Thursday night's game riding the kind of streak the 2012 club could not assemble until mid-June: three consecutive games with five-plus runs and 10-plus hits.

That was interesting, given that the Pittsburgh "0-ffense" was meek through the season's first week, averaging fewer than four hits per game.

And downright amazing, considering the lower half of the lineup was still hitting below .100: Alvarez (4-for-45), Martin (4-for-39), Clint Barmes (4-for-36) and the pitcher in the nine-hole.

Barmes is the glove man, and pitchers have their own responsibilities, but the other two obviously can take this lineup from competitive to frightening.

"It can be very, very good," Hurdle said. "We can beat you a number of different ways. We have a combination of power and speed that is unique in today's game. We have the things you need, the weapons you need, to be way more consistent than we were the first week. And I believe we will be."

Given the lack of consistent production from Alvarez and Martin, the Bucs have to be pleased with their 7-8 record. And that gives them something in common with the 13-2 Braves, who are thrilled to own the Majors' best record despite two-thirds of their outfield (B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward) still hitting a combined .142

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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