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Pirates beat Nationals to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1983

This headline may seem like an April Fool’s joke to you if you’re not in the habit of paying attention to Pirates baseball.

But while Monday was indeed April 1, it was no joke that the Pirates defeated Washington, 8-4, at Nationals Park to improve to 5-0 to start the 2024 campaign.

Marco Gonzales started and pitched five innings. Roansy Contreras pitched two innings and was credited with the victory. Bryan Reynolds drove in three runs. The offense obviously had a lot of contributors in addition to Reynolds.

It was an all-around team victory, as were the first four against the Marlins at LoanDepot Park in Miami over the weekend.

As the title outright says, the Pirates 5-0 start is their first since 1983. If you want to know how that season ended, Pittsburgh posted a record of 84-78 and finished second in the National League Eastern Division.

Things were different 41 years ago. Only four teams qualified for the postseason–two in the American League and two in the National League. Twelve teams now qualify for the playoffs, and since 84 victories were enough to earn the Arizona Diamondbacks (the eventual NL representative in the World Series) the sixth and final seed in the National League a year ago, it stands to reason that Pittsburgh would at least be in the hunt for Buctober baseball with a similar record this season.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Maybe, but you can’t blame me. This is cool stuff. The optimism surrounding the Pirates during spring training seemed different, and it had to do with a young cast of characters that won 76 games in 2023, a number that was a 14-win improvement over the previous season.

And the Pirates’ improvements came mostly without Oneil Cruz, who suffered a season-ending injury nine games into the 2023 campaign.

Cruz is now firmly affixed as the centerpiece of Pittsburgh’s lineup and is expected to do MVP-level things.

I mentioned the promising pitching the other day when rookie Jared Jones made his Major League debut on Saturday and struck out 10 batters in five-and-two-thirds innings. Jones was electric and looked like Paul Skenes is expected to look when he ultimately makes his debut at some point during the 2024 season.

Add those two to Mich Keller, the team’s current ace who struck out 200-plus batters in 2023, and that could, I say, COULD, wind up being one outstanding starting staff.

The Pirates already appear to have a dominant bullpen, led by closer David Bednar and setup man Aroldis Chapman, who still has the same electric stuff he did when he was terrorizing Bucco batters as a member of the Reds back in the 2010s.

Finally, don’t be too hard on fellow Pirates fans if they want to get a little ahead of themselves when it comes to this awesome start.

It’s hard to blame them.

They’re not April fools, they’re just Pirates fans who haven’t had much to celebrate in recent years.


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