Pirates notebook: Many common denominators arise between Pirates and 2012 Athletics


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They might as well have put a mirror in the Oakland Athletics' dugout this series.

Sure, the Athletics have some green in their uniforms to accompany the yellow, otherwise the Pirates and Athletics aren't all that different.

"It's scary similar," said Oakland's Brandon Moss, a former Pirates player.

In fact, it was just one year ago that the Athletics were baseball's surprise team, surging down the stretch to win a division loaded with some of the game's traditional powers, beating out the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers in the American League West Division.

This year, its the Pirates who hope to be baseball's surprise, division-winning squad. To do so, they will have to beat out the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds to claim the National League Central crown.

So, yes, the Pirates and the Athletics have been in similar situations, but its more than that which makes the teams eerily familiar. It extends to their DNA.

When asked about the similarities between last season's Athletics and these Pirates, Oakland manager Bob Melvin gave a simple, and direct answer: "Yeah."

The similarity, he said, is "really good pitching."

Led by Jarrod Parker, the A's had a team ERA of 3.48 in 2012. Through Tuesday, the Pirates' ERA was 3.12. But many good teams rely on pitching, and, if anyone would have an idea how similar the two teams are, it's Moss, who played for the Pirates from 2008-2010.

"We don't have a team full of A-Rods, we don't have a team full of [Josh] Hamiltons," Moss said. "We just go out, play together and try to beat the other team. I think that's what they do over there."

Moss didn't stop the comparisons there, either.

He said both teams having a "shutdown" bullpen, which certainly has been a staple for the Pirates.

In 2012, the A's had a bullpen ERA of 2.94. This year, the Pirates bullpen ERA is 2.87.

And mostly, Moss said, because of both team's lack of star hitting, they know how to string hits together when the opposing pitchers begin to wilt. In game No. 162 of 2012, the A's strung together seven hits in the fourth inning to score seven runs in a division-clinching, 11-5 victory.

Such timely hitting has carried both teams beyond their superb pitching. It led to playoff appearance for the A's.

It could work for the Pirates, too, if they stay true to the formula.

"Pitching and timely hitting," Moss said. "That's why both teams have good records."

Grilli who?

Grant Balfour has seen the highlights, but other than that, Pirates closer Jason Grilli remains somewhat of a mystery to his Oakland counterpart.

"I'd heard of him," Balfour said, "but I didn't know a whole lot about him."

Balfour, who, like Grilli, has only one loss this season, gave the Pirates ace reliever credit for his stellar first-half of the season.

"He's been given the opportunity to close," Balfour said, "and he's run with it."

Making moves

The Pirates acquired shortstop Brian Bocock Wednesday from the Washington Nationals organization to complete the previous trade for catcher Brian Jeroloman. Bocock, 28, reported to Class AAA Indianapolis and hit a home run in his first game with the Indians.

The Pirates placed infielder Chase d'Arnaud on the minor league disabled list because of a left forearm injury Monday, so Bocock could serve as depth while d'Arnaud recovers.

"Chase has got a forearm that has been bothering him for a little while, and we're trying to work through what is the next step," general manager Neal Huntington said. "It's something that's just not getting better."

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Mike Vernon: mvernon@post-gazette.com or Twitter @m_vernon.


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