Pirates Notebook: Offense Struggles to be Consistent
The Pirates lineup continues to struggle to be consistent over their last several weeks. After belting out 18 hits in the win on Sunday, it looked as if maybe the team had found a spark to finish off the season strong. That wasn’t the case against the New York Mets on Monday at Citi Field.
Not until the eighth inning were the Pirates able to plate a run off the Mets bullpen. Andrew McCutchen legged out a triple into the gap in right center field and scored after Garrett Jones connected for an RBI single off a southpaw to break up the shutout. They were able to tack on one more run in the ninth with an RBI single from Jose Tabata to plate Michael McKenry. But they were the only two that were able to touch home plate.
Tabata has been doing his share in the batters box recently. The outfielder has gone 9-for-24 in his last 10 games and is hitting .284 in the last 24 games with the Pirates since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on August 19.
Even despite batting a bruise on his foot after being hit by a pitch, Tabata has shown much better overall game since he was demoted to get back on track. He has not only been better at the plate, but the outfielder has been tracking down balls and making diving plays snags, something he struggled to do earlier in the season.
“It was unfortunate, that I thought he was playing some better baseball, some inspired baseball before he hit a ball off his foot and missed a few days,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s playing better. He’s moving better. There seems to be more confidence in everything he’s doing
Club Finishing Out the Season With Rookies in Rotation
When the Pirates decided to get looks at rookies Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson in the rotation when they were within playoff reach and over .500, many wondered what the identity of the club was going to be. Are they playing for now, or taking a look at the future? And is it possible to do both at the same time?
Now that the playoffs chances are slim, and the sight of .500 is slowly slipping, the Pirates are finishing the final stretch of games with both rookies in the rotation to get ample looks. Heading into the offseason, the rotation has only two locks: A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez. With Kevin Correia a free agent, Jeff Karstens arbitration eligible, Charlie Morton rehabbing back from Tommy John and James McDonald struggling in the second half to get back on track, there will be plenty of decisions to make regarding the starting staff.
Manager Clint Hurdle said on Monday that their focus right now is to get both Locke and McPherson some starts and that they have to think of how they can add value to the starting rotation.
For Locke, his next start comes on Wednesday. McPherson got his second big league start on Monday in the Pirates loss to New York. Having been on a five-day routine for the first time in the Majors, McPherson started off the outing strong. Over his first three scoreless, the right-hander had held the Mets to just one hit. But his command was shaky in his next two, which resulted in four earned on the night.
A leadoff walk to David Wright hurt McPherson as Ike Davis followed by taking a 3-1 fastball for a two-run homer to left center field. It was his third long ball given up in the big leagues this season over 19 frames for the 24-year-old. McPherson retired his next two straight before giving up a single into shallow left field. The runner was erased after a caught stealing ended the frame.
McPherson walked his third batter of the outing to start the fifth inning. After notching his third strikeout, a one-out single to right ended his night early. Hurdle called upon Hisanori Takahashi from the bullpen who retired the lefty bat of Daniel Murphy for the second out. Jeff Karstens was next from the ‘pen, and gave up an RBI single to left field to allow the leadoff walk to score. Davis tormented the Pirates again with another big swing of the bat. Karstens left a changeup over the plate for a three-run homer for his second long ball of the night.
Overall, McPherson was charged with four runs on four hits over 4.1 innings. He walked three and struck out three while throwing 83 pitches, 46 for strikes. He’s allowed six earned on 11 hits over 8.2 innings combined in his two starts with Pittsburgh this season.
Pirates Make History with Wins and Strikeouts
— The Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday picked up their 75th win Houston. The team’s 75 wins are the most since winning 75 in 2003. The last time the Pirates won more than 75 games was in 1999 when they finished 78-83.
— In the three game set against the Astros, the Pirates were only able to take one of those games. But they did, however, see something from the pitching staff they haven’t in quite some time. The Pirates struck out 12 batters in each of those three games. It was the first time Pittsburgh recorded at least 12 strikeouts in three consecutive games in the modern era (since 1900).
After the loss on Monday, The Pirates have tallied a total of 1,121 strikeouts this season. That’s just three shy of tying the club record of 1,124 set in 1969.