Dunlap: Jordan Lyles Has Saved The Pirates’ Backside

Colin Dunlap
May 14, 2019 - 11:03 am

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Related: Pirates Place Kang on 10-Day IL, Taillon on 60-Day IL

Jameson Taillon is hurt – OK, no problem. 

Chris Archer is hurt and due to be back this series but he hasn’t necessarily lit the world on fire when he’s been healthy – OK, no problem. 

Joe Musgrove hasn’t had a win since April 5 and has lasted just 5.2 innings combined in his last two starts -- OK, no problem. 

Brault and Kingham are, kind of, what you thought they would be. 

Enter Jordan Lyles. 

The man who was tabbed the fifth starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates as Spring Training ended, but the man who has effectively saved this team’s backside through the early portion of the season. 

He did it again on Saturday night as Lyles --- you could call the 28-year-old a journeyman --- gave up just one hit against the St. Louis Cardinals and struck out six as he worked six innings and threw 101 pitches.

He moved to 3-1 on the season with a win and holds a 2.09 ERA as he’ll make his eighth start later this week.

Perhaps most impressive to me is this stat: Lyles is, on average, yielding just 3.8 hits per outing this season. 

Try and digest that a little further if you would. The guy who had an ERA below 5.09 just once in his first seven seasons in Major League Baseball is giving up fewer than four hits each time he goes out there now. 

That’s really something for any starter but, again, I remind you that he was supposed to be a “give him the ball and hope” fifth starter who was theoretically going to just try and give you a chance to win when he took the mound. 

Instead, one can make the case through the first month or so, he’s been the Pirates’ best pitcher. He’s been downright dominant outside of one start. 

In a way, too, he’s had to be. The deep domino effect that has hit Lyles square on the right arm has forced him to be good because, if he were not throwing like this there is no way the club would be sitting at a 20-17 record right now.

Just think about it, think about if Lyles hadn’t stepped up his game to this point. Couldn’t you very easily see the Pirates having three, maybe four more losses? 

I know I could. 

I mean, there is also a very real possibility that if Lyles had struggled, Kingham, Brault or even Liriano might have been quickly thrust into that fifth starter role. I don’t think that is something that would have been beneficial, either. 

In short, Jordan Lyles was put in a situation through the early part of the season where he had to pitch well, both for his career personally and the success of the team. And, no matter what general manager Neal Huntington will tell you, there’s no way they could have expected this much from Lyles. 

He’s been magnificent. In a way, he’s been the guy who has saved the Pirates’ backside.  ​

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