Bob Smizik: Offensive juggernaut rolls

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Regular readers of this site, both of the articles and the comments, have been treated this summer to a litany of Pirates offensive shortcomings. In no particular order: The stinking first basemen; the slump-ridden third baseman; the disappointing left fielder; the temporarily, at least, overmatched right fielder. All of which led the conversation to this topic: The general manager who did nothing in the offseason to solve the first base and right field problems.

A person might be left with the belief the Pirates had trouble scoring runs such were the crimes of, in order, Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Neal Huntington.

Which leads to this question: Since June 30, which team leads the National League in runs?

That would be your Pittsburgh Pirates, who added to their offensive superiority last night, with a 7-2 spanking of the Miami Marlins, a victory that included a superlative performance by Edinson Volquez, a pitcher signed in the offseason by the general manager who did nothing.

They did this with their two best hitters, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, out of the lineup with injuries.

The Pirates have scored 150 runs in 32 games since the end of June, which is 4.7 a game. That’s more than Colorado, which leads the NL for the season, has averaged in 115 games.

The Pirates got their seven runs last night with a lineup that was derided, and understandably so, in pre-game comments. That lineup included Michael Martinez and Jayson Nix, both of whom are batting under .170, and the wildly ridiculed Gaby Sanchez.

Polanco, who looked mismatched from June 27 to July 19 (batting .179) drove in four runs and looks to have his awful period behind him. Jordy Mercer had three hits, which gives him 16 in his past 45 at bats, a .356 pace.

Yes, the Pirates have been playing some awful competition recently and that will change next week when they begin a 22-game stretch against some of the best teams in MLB. But their offensive strength is not just a six-week happening. For the season, they were third in the NL in runs, first in on-base percentage and third in OPS.

The Pirates will need Walker and McCutchen to handle that upcoming schedule. For now though, they are 1 1/2 games out of first-place in the NL Central -- thanks largely to a productive but unappreciated offense.


• Volquez pitched seven innings and allowed the Marlins no runs and one hit while walking three and striking out seven. After issuing a walk to start the game, he retired 10 straight batters and was in complete control. It was a reassuring start since he had been in a slump. In his three previous starts, his ERA was 5.74. Prior to that, he had been dazzling in four starts -- 30 innings and three earned runs (0.90 ERA).

• Justin Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and struck out two, but Stolmy Pimentel gave up a two-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth . . . Russell Martin had two hits to raise his average to .286 and his on-base percentage to .415, second in the league . . . The Pirates sold about 83,000 tickets for the series, which considering it was mid-week and against the Marlins was pretty amazing.

• The Pirates open a three-game series with San Diego tonight at PNC Park. The Padres are 52-61 and in fourth place in the West Division, but they have the lowest team ERA in the National League. Vance Worley pitches against Ian Kennedy tonight.

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