If you have even the slightest interest in Major League Baseball, chances are you are aware of the stigma that surrounds Coors Field. Located nearly a mile above sea level in Denver, Colorado, the Rockies home park has been labeled as a place where batters love to hit and where ERAs go to die.
Following a disappointing homestand, the Pirates started a pivotal three game series on the road against the Rockies that had the potential to get them back in the wild card race or bury them for good. While many fans tuned in on Monday and Tuesday excited to see long home runs and high scoring games, it was something else that excited me about this three game set.
The pitching matchups.
For the first time since their new rotation was assembled, the Pirates were able to pitch Joe Musgrove, Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer in the same series. With each of them under team control until at least 2021, chances are this will not be the last time this occurs. If the recent past for all three of these players is any sort of indication as to how the future will go, this trio could be capable of accomplishing some big things.
Each member of this group brings something both physically and mentally to the Bucs roster. In the past two seasons, the Pirates have struggled to find any sort of consistency from their starting rotation. Not since 2015 have the Bucs been able to enter a series expecting to receive a solid outing for every pitcher scheduled to start. However, it seems as though these three can do just that.
The first player to pitch was Joe Musgrove: the grinder.
Coming into Monday, the Bucs pitching staff had their work cut out for them. No starter was able to get past the fifth inning in their most recent series against the St. Louis Cardinals, which forced manager Clint Hurdle to use his bullpen a bit more than he would’ve liked to with a long and important west coast road trip right around the corner.
Fortunately for the Pirates, Musgrove was the man on the mound. Despite pitching in unfavorable weather conditions inside a park that baseballs fly out of, Musgrove battled through, and delivered seven innings of quality work for the fifth time in his last sixth start. Though the Pirates lost the game 2-0, the fact that Musgrove once again battled against a good team and went late into the game is something that cannot be overlooked.
With the valuable experience that he gained from playing in last year’s World Series with the Houston Astros, it is clear that Musgrove is comfortable when all eyes are on him. Though he may not have the best stuff on this staff, he is someone who is dependable, which as it was mentioned earlier, is something the Pirates pitching staff desperately needed.
Next you have Jameson Taillon: the leader.
If the two innings of work was still too much for the bullpen, Taillon took it upon himself to give everyone a day off, throwing his second complete game of the season and just the 52nd in the history of Coors Field. Since deciding to throw his slider on a more regular basis on May 27, Taillon has been as good as just about anyone in the National League, only allowing 28 earned runs in 82.1 innings of work (3.05 ERA).
Considering all that he has been through, it isn’t a stretch to label Taillon as a player who is mentally tough. With a clean bill of health and a new and lethal arsenal of pitches, Taillon looks to be the next player in the Pirates clubhouse who can lead the team by both word and example.
Finally, you have Chris Archer: the Ace.
The last member to the Bucs “Big Three”. Unless you have been living under a rock since the beginning of the month, you should be well aware of who Chris Archer is. Despite his less than ideal numbers that he came to Pittsburgh with, his averages of 204.2 innings and 244 strikeouts in the past three seasons give the Pirates a type of arm that they really have not had before.
Even in his one start as a Bucco where he clearly was not at his best, Archer showed that he is able to get himself out of a jam by making hitters swing and miss. The Pirates traded for Archer for games like Wednesday, where he can come in and give the club a much needed series win over a team that they are chasing.
Archer has the star power to fill Andrew McCutchen’s shoes as the face of the franchise.
Wednesday, Archer was a bit under the weather with a case of food poisoning, but battled through with five solid innings of work, allowing just two runs.
He pitched well enough to turn things over to the Pirates improved bullpen and earned his first win in a Pirates uniform in the process.
Entering Coors Field, where the scoreboard was expected to be lit up, the Pirates pitching staff surrendered just seven runs in the three game set, with just six coming from the trio of Musgrove, Taillon and Archer.
Not since the days of Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano have the Bucs had so much talent in their starting rotation. However, unlike those three, this trio is much younger and will have the chance to leave a long term impact on the Pirates franchise.
With Pittsburgh having this trio under control in the bulk of their prime, there is a good chance they can take the club much further than the last solid pitching staff did.