MEADVILLE — 4. No pick-up in baseball has made things easier on the other players around him than Francisco Lariano. A second thought at the beginning of the year, the left hander has proven to be the ace of the staff. His 15-7 record and 2.98 ERA are among the best in baseball. If he can keep it going in the postseason, anything is possible. And while I do not think he will get enough chances to be a serious threat to Clayton Kershaw, he certainly can make a case for the Cy Young award.
5. The Pirates did not sell the farm for players that were not going to make a difference at the trade deadline. Instead, they got outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the New York Mets and first baseman Justin Morneau from Minnesota through waivers. None of the moves are going to make the Pirates an offensive juggernaut down the stretch. However, all three men have been involved in playoff races before, adding valuable experience in that capacity. And who knows, Morneau is coming off his best month in two years ... maybe he will revert to his MVP-winning year of 2006 just in time for the playoffs.
All said, what GM Neal Huntington has done since taking over in 2007 is remarkable. And face the facts ... he has done it with extremely tight purse strings. Pittsburgh is not going out and signing the big-name free agents like the large-market teams.
And while it took a little longer than planned, but the Pirates are once again a contender.