After back-to-back 100-loss seasons and no playoff appearances since 2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates were finally able to give their fans a lot to cheer about.
April was a very successful month — both on the field and off of it. There was plenty to celebrate.
On the field, the Pirates flipped the calendar to May with a 20-9 record. That mark is good for first place in the National League Central as the Pirates are 1.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. It also represents the best record in the National League and the season-best record in baseball behind only the Tampa Bay Rays (23-6).
The Bucs have already swept three series — the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field and a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. It was only two years ago that the Pirates failed to complete a sweep at any point in the season.
The Pirates have received plenty of contributions from a variety of players. Their starting rotation has been excellent. Pittsburgh’s starting pitchers are 15-7 with a 3.83 ERA through the team’s first 29 games.
At one point during first month of the season, the Pirates’ rotation combined for 11 straight quality starts.
In the bullpen, David Bednar has been lights out while Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez has been an unexpected bright spot. Combined, the bullpen has posted a 3.10 ERA, seventh-best in the majors.
On offense, Jack Suwinski (1.011 OPS), Connor Joe (.962) and Bryan Reynolds (.926) have helped to carry the club.
In his return to the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen is playing at a high level in his age-36 season. He has an .830 OPS with five doubles. five home runs, 14 RBIs, and four steals through his first 26 games.
The bad news of the month came when Oneil Cruz fractured his ankle while sliding into home plate. Cruz is going to be out for a while, but Rodolfo Castro has stepped up in Cruz’s absence.
One of the cooler stories in all of baseball in April was when Drew Maggi finally made his major league debut after 13 seasons in the minor leagues. Eventually, Maggi recorded his first hit, his first RBI and his first extra-base hit in a 16-1 blowout win over the Washington Nationals.
Then there was the off-the-field news, the business side.
Manager Derek Shelton saw his contract extended during the Pirates’ last home stand as he will be at the helm through at least the 2024 season.
The biggest news, however, was that the Pirates finally extended Bryan Reynolds after agreeing to an eight-year $106.75M contract that also has a club option attached to it.
The Pirates can now keep the 2021 All-Star in Pittsburgh through at least the 2030 season and if the club option is exercised, Reynolds will be a Pirate in 2031.
The deal not only represents a big-time commitment from owner Bob Nutting, but the deal is also the largest every contract handed out in franchise history as well as the first nine-figure deal.
The Pirates’ start to the season has been unexpected but has surely been welcomed by the fans. What does the team have in store for May?