PITTSBURGH -- Ask manager Clint Hurdle about this year's Pirates lineup, and he'll tell you it's longer. Maybe even stronger. The offseason additions of Colin Moran and Corey Dickerson, along with the healthy returns of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli, made Pittsburgh a surprisingly deep, formidable offensive club.It
PITTSBURGH -- Ask manager Clint Hurdle about this year's Pirates lineup, and he'll tell you it's longer. Maybe even stronger. The offseason additions of Colin Moran and Corey Dickerson, along with the healthy returns of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli, made Pittsburgh a surprisingly deep, formidable offensive club.
It was all on display Friday night in a 14-3, rain-soaked rout of the Reds at PNC Park. With everyone in the lineup chipping in, the Pirates are off to their first 6-1 start since 1976.
"It's a good confidence-booster," starter Trevor Williams said. "We came out of Spring Training knowing that we were a good team. Now that we have tangible evidence that we're a good team, it's been fun."
Start with the new guys. Moran, batting seventh, went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs. Dickerson, slotted behind cleanup hitter Josh Bell, finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs. The two left-handed sluggers, acquired within six weeks of each other, brought balance and depth to the lineup.
It extended all the way to the eighth spot on Friday, as shortstop Jordy Mercer tallied three hits and two doubles.
"I think it rubs off on everybody when the top of the lineup gets up there to begin the game and they're putting up good at-bats," Moran said. "It kind of gets contagious. One through eight, we put up some really good at-bats."
Josh Harrison drove in two runs from the leadoff spot. Polanco drove in two more, giving him a Major League-leading 11 RBIs. Marte cleared the bases in the sixth with a triple, putting the game out of reach for the Pirates. Bell and Cervelli were the only Pirates starters without a hit, but they combined for five walks.
"It's early, but I like the lineup. I like the way it's stretched out. I like the way it sets up," Hurdle said. "We've got some different looks for you and some guys that can do some different things -- some guys that can try to jump you early, some guys that can work some at-bats and see some pitches. They're complementing one another really well right now."
For one, the Pirates have quickly worked up opponents' pitch counts. Jordan Zimmermann threw six innings on Opening Day, and Michael Fulmer worked eight frames in the second game of the season. Since then, opposing starters have combined for 21 innings in five games.
The Pirates dealt patiently with Reds right-hander Luis Castillo, who gave them trouble in two starts last season. The Bucs saw 78 pitches in the first three innings and made Castillo throw 107 pitches before exiting after five. That helped Pittsburgh get into Cincinnati's bullpen, which the Pirates then pulverized for 10 runs in three innings.
"You're not going to score 14 runs every night. You're not going to get 15 hits every night," Hurdle said. "However, the quality of the at-bats overall, the focus and the preparation, is in a very good place and a very consistent place."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Playing with fire: In his first start, Williams slipped in and out of trouble without allowing a hit over six innings. Friday was just the opposite, as Williams allowed 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he still kept the Pirates in the game. His most important escape act came in the fourth inning, when Pittsburgh held a two-run lead. The Reds strung together three consecutive two-out singles to left field, bringing up Eugenio Suarez with the bases loaded and Joey Votto looming on deck. Williams fell behind in the count, 2-0, but Suarez flied out to right field to end the inning.
"The games where you get kind of singled to death, it's harder because you know you're executing pitches and you know they're just putting the bat on the ball," Williams said. "I'm thankful today we made some great plays behind me and we put up a lot of runs at the end of the game. It was a good win for us as a team. We're rolling pretty good right now. It's been fun."
Smooth transition: After a six-pitch fifth inning, Williams returned for the sixth. Jose Peraza reached on a one-out infield single, and Luis Castillo knocked his second hit of the night to center field. Hurdle called in right-hander Edgar Santana, who worked a perfect sixth on Thursday night, to escape the jam Friday night. Santana, who might be emerging as an answer to the Bucs' early middle-relief questions, did so without incident. Cervelli slid across the wet grass to pick up Billy Hamilton's tapper and fired to first for one out, which Hurdle called "as big a play as we had on defense all night."
Santana got Jesse Winker to ground out, ending the inning. Then Santana got a warm welcome in the dugout from Williams.
"I'm sure it was huge tonight for Edgar. I loved it. I gave him a big hug," Williams said. "It's fun to watch them roll out every night, hopefully, to get that consistency we're looking for."
"We've been able to have success with what we've been doing. I think all of us are ready to get to Miami."-- Williams, on another win on another cold, rainy night in Pittsburgh. The Pirates play the Marlins in Miami next week
"It's too early for us to say anything about this group right now. We're going to keep playing games. We're going to play them one at a time. Cliches mean things. They're real. It's early. We've gotten off to a good start. We've got plenty of areas to work on. For me, it doesn't say anything other than we're 6-1 right now and we get to play tomorrow."-- Hurdle, on Pittsburgh's hot start
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates' last 14-run performance was last July 9 against the Cubs, when they scored 10 runs in the first inning. The last time they scored at least 14 runs against the Reds was May 27, 2007, when a lineup led off by Jose Bautista produced 14 runs on 18 hits.
The last time the Pirates scored at least 14 runs without hitting a home run, as was the case Friday night? July 24, 2004, also against the Reds.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
The Pirates called up right-hander Clay Holmes on Sunday to serve as their 26th man during a doubleheader in Detroit. When Joe Musgrove went on the disabled list, Holmes stuck around in the bullpen. On Friday, he finally got on the mound for his Major League debut. Pittsburgh's No. 19 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, entered the game in the eighth with a 12-run lead and allowed one run in two innings and struck out against former Pirates reliever Jared Hughes in his first big league at-bat.
It was a long road to the Majors for Holmes, a ninth-round Draft pick in 2011. He underwent Tommy John surgery -- he was Jameson Taillon's throwing partner at Pirate City, in fact -- and climbed back through the system, ultimately reasserting himself as one of the Pirates' Major League-ready pitchers.
"It was a very cool experience. I couldn't have imagined being in that situation. I'm just glad I was out there and could help the team get a win," Holmes said. "I guess nothing really about this whole process has been how I would have thought it would come or planned it out to be. As in baseball and, I guess, life, most of the things you plan don't really go accordingly. I dealt with it and took it as it's come and adapted and have done my best."
After winning the second half of Sunday's doubleheader in Detroit, right-hander Chad Kuhl will return to the mound Saturday night as the Pirates host right-hander Sal Romano and the Reds. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.