The Pirates' bullpen kept rolling Sunday, pitching four shutout frames against the A's as the Bucs won their fourth straight game, 6-3, and returned to .500 (41-41) for the first time in more than two weeks.
Pittsburgh relievers extended their scoreless streak to 32 innings, the longest such streak for any club this season. The Pirates' bullpen hasn't surrendered a run since June 24, earning the Bullpen of the Week award presented by The Hartford.
As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2016 season, MLB.com is honoring the "Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford." An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula, to provide a weekly measurement of team-bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save
The Pirates led all relief units with a 113 score this week, the culmination of 23 scoreless innings, 23 strikeouts, 15 hits, four walks and two saves. Pittsburgh ended the week with three straight come-from-behind victories, relying heavily on its relievers in each.
It wasn't just statistical achievements that put the Pirates on top. Like any great bullpen, the Bucs were able to withstand adversity and succeed in spite of unexpected circumstances. Here's a look at their biggest obstacle:
The unexpected: Nursing a one-run lead against the A's in Oakland on Sunday, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle turned to his bullpen for the final four innings. Both A.J. Schugel and Neftali Feliz ran into a jam, putting the tying run on third base in the sixth and the seventh, respectively.
How they prevailed: Schugel and Feliz both escaped their binds. Schugel got out of the sixth inning unscathed with a line-drive double play to first baseman David Freese. Feliz, facing runners at the corners before he even recorded an out in the seventh, retired three straight batters, striking out two.
"Closer experience. Postseason experience. Slow heartbeat," Hurdle said. "They all stayed within themselves, kept their composure and competed with the skills that they had. It worked out for us."
The Dodgers were the only other team to cross the century mark for their BRS score, coming in second place with a 103.5 rating. In the absence of ace Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles bullpen has picked up the slack, entering Sunday atop the National League with a 3.02 ERA. Dodgers relievers yielded five earned runs through 23 innings last week, striking out 30 batters against eight walks.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.