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Connor Joe is leading the Pirates' very strong offensive start to the season by batting first in the lineup

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton had different options to choose his leadoff hitter for the 2024 season.

When deciding on a leadoff hitter to start the 2024 season, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton had multiple options to choose from.

He could have chosen to put Oneil Cruz as the leadoff hitter, like he did in 2023.

Other logical choices for the leadoff position included Ke’Bryan Hayes, who led the team in the leadoff spot last year, and Andrew McCutchen, who had a .378 on-base percentage in 2023 before getting injured.

Instead of those options, Shelton picked Connor Joe, who had a moderately successful 2023 season with the Pirates, leading the team with 31 doubles.

So far, that decision has been successful.

In the first five games, where Joe has batted first, the 31-year-old has a .348 batting average, five RBIs, and a team-high four doubles.

On Monday, Joe expressed his gratitude for the team's confidence in him during the SportsNet Pittsburgh postgame show in Washington after the Pirates defeated the Nationals 8-4. Joe mentioned that it's nice to be at the top of the lineup and emphasized the support from the strong hitters behind him.

He also stated that getting on base has always been part of his game and having good hitters behind him gives him confidence that there will be action once he gets on base.

Joe is leading the way for the Pirates' exceptional offensive performance, which has helped the team start the year with a 5-0 record, their best since 1983.

In three of the Pirates' first five games, Joe has gotten multiple hits, and in the recent victory over Washington on Monday, he went 2 for 4 with a double, run, and two RBIs.

Shelton praised Joe's performance, highlighting his impact as the team's catalyst at the start of the season.

He mentioned Joe's solid defense and overall contribution to the team's early season success.

Apart from Joe, the Pirates have also seen strong performances from other players including Hayes, Michael A. Taylor, Bryan Reynolds, and Cruz.

The Pirates rank third in MLB with 62 hits, fourth in team batting average (.302), second in doubles (16), and tied for second in runs (39).

Shelton emphasized the importance of getting off to a good start, noting that the team has executed their game plan effectively in the first five games.

He mentioned the significance of playing good baseball from the beginning, especially considering the scattered nature of spring training.

McCutchen had a limited workload in spring training due to his Achilles injury, ultimately having the lowest spring total at-bats in his MLB career.

Although McCutchen's Achilles injury affected his spring training, he only had 19 at-bats before the regular season began.

McCutchen did not get any hits in the first two games of the season for the Pirates on March 28-29, and he struck out four times in the season opener against the Marlins.

After not playing in the last two games in Miami, McCutchen batted fourth again on Monday in Washington.

Although he struck out in his first two at-bats, McCutchen improved as the game went on, getting his first hit of the year in the sixth inning, a double off the center field wall that was just short of leaving Nationals Park for his 300th career home run.

Then he had an RBI single in the seventh and ended the game 2 for 4 with a walk.

The Pirates' 5-0 start has not been just because of their offense.

The team's bullpen has had a lot of work (24 ⅓ innings in five games) and for the most part, has been consistent.

Leading into Tuesday’s off day, the first five games of the season have also provided a chance to see the starting rotation, an area of the team that was considered weak at the start of the season.

There is more that could be improved from that group, but so far, the Pirates have been able to manage shaky starts and relief appearances.

In two of our games in Miami, the Pirates won in extra innings, while on Monday the team scored five runs in the eighth and ninth innings after losing a 3-1 lead in the seventh.

“It’s obviously really early, but it’s a great start,” Joe said. ‘It’s always good to hit the ground running. To see the whole team come together on all sides of the ball – everything’s been going well for us right now.”

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