Game 134: Salvage The Series (and Playoff Hopes)

Yesterday marked the the beginning of the end to this season as there were exactly 30 games left. With the losses to St. Louis, Miami, and New York, the Pirates didn’t lose any ground and had a chance to make some up with a victory in last night’s game. Well, they failed to do so, however the Cardinals and Marlins lost again keeping the Pirates in the exact position in the Wild Card standings.

Today, they will look to at least take one game away in this series and prevent themselves from falling any further back in the Wild Card as they make their playoff push this month. After sweeping the Brewers in a four game series in Milwaukee, the Pirates have now dropped back to back games at PNC. Steve Brault will take on Chase Anderson to conclude the the three game series and the first pitch is scheduled to partake at 1:35.

The Pirates are struggling right now as they have dropped five games in a row. In those games, they have batted just .239 while averaging 3.2 runs and holding a team ERA of 4.70. What makes this streak so difficult is the fact that they faced Jake Arrieta and charged him with six earned runs over six innings, but then fell flat on their face while facing Jimmy Nelson and making Junior Guerra leave after 3.1 innings pitched.

With the team struggling, it is going to be on rookie pitcher, Steven Brault, to help turn this streak around. Today will mark just his fourth start of his career and second against Milwaukee. He last faced the Brewers on July 29 and pitched pretty pedestrian. He lasted 7 innings, however he gave up three earned runs on seven hits, three walks, and a home run while striking out three. In two of the three starts he has only lasted four innings which you can expect to see a quick hook today as well with the expanded rosters.

Yesterday we discussed how well Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte have been playing recently, and they both had a good performance in yesterday’s game with each of them homering. For the season, Marte now holds a .312/.364/.460/.824 stat line with 47 steals and nine home runs. In the past six games, Marte is batting .462 with three stolen bases and two home runs.

Marte is having a breakout season of the ages that has gone very quietly. We talked about how and why Marte would become the next big star in this article: Marte’s Valiant Partay. After going through a slump which seamed to happen almost immediately after that, he has picked it back up. He now places 7th in the N.L. with a .312 batting average, his 123 wRC+ ranks 17th, he is 3rd in stolen bases with 47, and he now ranks 6th with his 4.9 WAR.

Andrew McCutchen has done nothing but show the old Andrew McCutchen is back since his benching in Atlanta. Yesterday’s 1 for 4 performance with a home run and walk without a strike out continued to show that. This now sits him at a .297/.403/.465/.869 slash line over his last 27 games with four home runs and 18/17 BB/K rate. When you place that line over a 162 game pace, he is slashing the same with 24 home runs and 108 walks. It appears pretty evident that whatever was going on with Cutch to start this season has passed and the worries about this being the drop-off to the end of his career can be put to rest for the time being. He has also had eight games where he produced multiple hits and has collected at least one hit 11 times in the last 13 games.

I question why Josh Harrison continues to stay at the leadoff position though. His free swinging mentality and lack of walks (seven in the last 43 games) does not make him the ideal candidate. Honestly, I would much rather see Francisco Cervelli who has lost some power but still gets on base at a tremendous rate lead off the team. Cervelli has a .376 OBP for the season. His skills of getting on base without having any power this season are better served at the top of the order instead of putting him in the 7 hole with players needing to be batted in. I would love to see a simple swap of J Hay and Cervelli in this team’s order to help maximize the run potential in this offense.

Pirates Lineup:

  1. Josh Harrison, 2B
  2. John Jaso, 1B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Gregory Polanco, RF
  5. Starling Marte, LF
  6. Sean Rodriguez, SS
  7. Adam Frazier, 3B
  8. Chris Stewart, C
  9. Steven Brault, P

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