Those in Pittsburgh or fans of the Pirates are well aware of James McDonald’s solid 2012 season. He posted a 2.97 ERA over five starts in April, and followed that up with an even better month of May. The right-hander posted a 1.54 ERA over five outings. He whiffed 39 batters over 35.0 innings and has not surrendered more than three runs in any of his first 10 assignments.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, beginning with his start on April 18, James McDonald’s 1.82 ERA is the lowest among all starters in the Major Leagues (minimum of eight starts).
But is McDonald starting to raise some eyes outside of the Steel City?
You could argue that McDonald got snubbed for the National League pitcher of the month for May. The Washington Nationals Gio Gonzalez got the award after posting a 2.25 ERA. A very efficient month of May for the lefty, but McDonald was even better. McDonald had a better ERA (1.54), more innings pitched (35.0), less walks (8), and better WHIP (0.89). Gonzalez had a few more punchouts, 45 to McDonald’s 39.
McDonald quietly continued his solid season by holding the Brewers to just one earned run over six innings on Sunday afternoon.
A pair of unearned runs scored off McDonald in the first inning. Clint Barmes’ costly error allowed former Bucco Nyjer Morgan to score on a 2-out double. Rickie Weeks followed with a RBI knock to plate the second unearned run. McDonald needed 23 pitches to escape the inning, but from there he was locked in.
McDonald retired 14 straight until Morgan hit a solo-homer in the 6th inning to right field. The 28-year-old followed by giving up a single and a walk, but was aggressive and was able to escape the inning. Back-to-back punchouts to Weeks and Cody Ransom, which was a called strike three, ended the inning.
That home run was the lone earned run the right-hander would allow during his 11th start of the season. Overall, McDonald allowed three runs –one earned — on four hits. He walked one and struck out eight while throwing 100 pitches, 60 strikes. McDonald dropped his ERA to 2.14 on season and has allowed just two earned runs over his last three starts (21.0 innings).
Homers Give Pirates First Series Win at Miller Park Since 2010
Miller Park has been a house of horrors for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the years, but the club was able to do something this weekend that they haven’t done since April 26-28, 2010 — win a series. After belting out double-digit hits off Milwaukee on Sunday in the 6-5 win, the Pirates took two of three from the Brewers, after going just 1-for-9 in Miller Park last season. It also marked the Bucs third straight series win of the season.
The Pirates offense doesn’t have a lot of home run power, but that didn’t stop them from hitting four on the day against the Brewers. When the Pirates belt two or more homers in a game, they are 9-2 on the season.
Back-to-back homers by Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones came off rookie right-hander Mike Fiers in the 5th. McCutchen’s two-run shot was his ninth of year. Jones followed with his seventh of the season and his second in as many games. It marked the second time this season the Bucs have hit back-to-back jacks. The other time came on April 25 vs. Colorado when Jones and Pedro Alvarez went deep.
Rod Barajas hit his fifth long ball of the season in the next frame and Clint Barmes hit his third of the year off closer John Axford in the 9th. Barmes finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBI on the day in his second start since getting benched for nearly a week to work on his swing.
The ball was flying out of Miller Park. Not only did the Pirates connect for four homers, but the Brewers hit three of their own off the Pirates. Starter James McDonald allowed a solo-shot to Nyjer Morgan. Catcher Martin Maldonado’s came in the 7th off Juan Cruz, which snapped the bullpen’s 8.0 consecutive scoreless streak. Closer Joel Hanrahan gave up a solo bomb to Brooks Conrad in the bottom of the 9th.
Alvarez Sitting to “Clear the Deck”
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup today against the Milwaukee Brewers, with Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle electing to get Casey McGehee the spot start. Alvarez is just 7-for his last 40 at-bats (.175), which included a home run. And since being moved up to bat fourth, Alvarez has produced just a .140 average.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Trib, Alvarez had a closed door meeting with Hurdle before the game and will be benched for at least the next 48 hours. Alvarez was told not to swing the bat today, unless he was needed in the game late, to unplug from the game to reduce some anxiety.
The Pirates have an off day on Monday to travel to Cincinnati. Hurdle said he hasn’t decided if he will return to the lineup on Tuesday.
Lincoln’s Spot Start Pushed to Wednesday
Right-hander Brad Lincoln was previously scheduled to get the spot start for the Bucs on Tuesday in Cincinnati, but after the game Manager Clint Hurdle decided to give Lincoln an extra day off and bumped his start back to Wednesday against the Reds.
With the off day on Monday to travel, right-hander A.J. Burnett will get the nod on Tuesday and still remain on his regular five days rest. The decision to move Lincoln back a day could mean they don’t need him for a second spot start.
If there’s no issue after his fourth rehab outing on Wednesday, Karstens would be able to return from the DL to make a start on June 11. Karstens’ goal is to reach the 100 pitch mark.
Lincoln allowed two runs on four hits over 6.0 innings against Miami in his first start this season in Pittsburgh. He’s posted just an 0.45 ERA over 20.0 innings from the bullpen — third lowest-ERA in the Majors.