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Starters keeping hits on ground during turnaround

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MIAMI -- A lot of the Pirates' success in June has been credited to the offense, which entered Sunday leading the Majors in batting (.300) and runs scored (72) for the month -- but the team's starting pitching had provided just as much of a push in Pittsburgh's journey back to .500.

The Pirates starting staff entered Sunday with a 2.72 ERA in June, the second-best in baseball, after registering a Majors-worst 4.92 ERA in May.

Manager Clint Hurdle credited the turnaround to an increased rate in ground balls, which allowed starters to give up fewer extra-base hits. Entering Sunday, the rotation had allowed 18 extra-base hits in June, compared with 111 across the first two months of the season.

"Things are getting better individually and collectively as the group has moved forward," Hurdle said. "Our ball on the ground rate has spiked dramatically in the last 30 days. Retiring hitters on three pitches or less has gotten better. ...Now our numbers are starting to get back to where we believe we can keep them."

Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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