Winning record in May fueled by bats, not arms

Winning record in May fueled by bats, not arms

LOS ANGELES -- Perhaps the Pirates aren't as built -- and dependent upon -- pitching and defense as team officials envisioned.

The Bucs were guaranteed a winning May -- taking a 15-13 record into Saturday's game against the Dodgers -- thanks to a significant uptick in their offensive production that made up for a downturn in their pitching performances.

After staying quiet through the end of April -- a collective .221 average and .642 OPS -- the Pittsburgh lineup stirred in May to take an average of .274 and .750 OPS into the month's final game. The Pirates have been particularly productive since Ike Davis took over in the cleanup spot, completing the shakeup begun when Starling Marte vacated leadoff, in favor of primarily Josh Harrison.

And manager Clint Hurdle said this lineup still has the potential of being the best he has ever had in four seasons in Pittsburgh.

"If we get [shortstop Jordy] Mercer swinging the bat, our lineup will be the best we've had here," said Hurdle, making an exception of 2013's last month, when trade pickups Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau fueled the team down the stretch.

Conversely, "The inconsistencies off the mound have been challenging, the starting pitching as a whole," Hurdle said. "That's one area we got to improve."

Through April, Pirates starters averaged 6 1/3 innings. That workload dropped to 5 2/3 innings through 28 May games.

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.