Why not a sweep?

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At the risk of offending the terminally superstitious, the Pirates are in splendid position to sweep their four-game series with the San Francisco Giants by winning tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Consider the pitching matchups:

Tonight it is Francisco Liriano, one of the very best pitchers in the National League, against Tim Lincecum, who once was one of the very best pitchers in the National League -- but not any more.

Liriano is 14-5 with a 2.54 ERA. Lincecum is 6-13 with a 4.53 ERA. More significantly, in the past two games, Liriano has pitched 16 innings, allowed 11 baserunners and has an ERA of 0.56. In Lincecum's past two games, he has pitched 11 innings, allowed 22 baserunners and has an ERA of 9.00.

Tomorrow the matchup is A.J. Burnett, 6-8 and with a 3.09 ERA, against Ryan Vogelsong, who is 2-4 with a 6.29 ERA. In fairness, Vogelsong has pitched much better -- a 3.78 ERA in three starts, 16 2/3 innings, since coming off the disabled list earlier this month.

But the possibility of a sweep is very real. The Pirates won the first two game with a wobbly start from Jeff Locke and a strong one from Charlie Morton. With their two best pitchers going in the final two games, a sweep is hardly out of the question.

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One of the more stupid rules in all of sports is the one in MLB that allows teams to expand their rosters from 25 to 40 after Sept. 1. It makes no sense to change the rules in the final month, but that's the way MLB does it and that small dose of stupidity could go a long way toward helping the Pirates.

For one, it gives them a chance to deepen their bullpen, if they wish. The bullpen meltdown many feared has never happened and now it certainly looks like it won't. On Sept. 1, the Pirates can deepen their bullpen by removing Jason Grilli from the DL, if he is ready, and adding any number of relievers -- Vic Black, Ryan Reid, Duke Welker, Kris Johnson.

They also can give Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke, both of whom are approaching possibly dangerous levels in their inning totals, time off by inserting Brandon Cumpton, Stolmy Pimentel or Johnson into a starting role.

The Pirates won't add all these pitchers but their depth is probably an asset other contenders can't match.

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The Pirates are on pace to draw 2.25 million this season. It will be only the fifth time in franchise history the team has past 2 million in attendance. Combined with last year's attendance of almost 2.1 million, this will give the franchise its largest two-year total in history.

Next year, assuming there will be a significant uptick in season-ticket sales, the franchise record of 2.436 million set in 2001, the first year of PNC Park, could well be reachable.

It will be interesting to see what type of across-the-board increase the Pirates institute in ticket prices. Having pretty much held the line on higher ticket prices -- they had no choice -- for so long, it could be a significant increase.

As someone with vast experience in professional sports and music once told me, there is no correlation between ticket price and ticket demand. If the product is good, people will spend.

bobsmiziksports


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