Three games into the 2013 season the Pirates are 1-2 and for the most part have not been able to consistently put the ball into play.
Andrew McCutchen, not surprisingly, has not been one of the players that hasn’t had that problem. Yesterday in the Pirates Pregame we talked about his commitment to being aggressive when he gets on base, and McCutchen promptly stole two more bases in the Pirates’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Those brought his total to four stolen bases in three games — the most in Major League Baseball entering the season’s first weekend and two more than any other player in either league.
At the plate, McCutchen has been the only Pittsburgh player that hit with any consistency in the first series. He leads the team in hits (3) and RBIs (4) and has helped spark near-comebacks in the ninth inning of each of Pittsburgh’s two losses.
Clint Barmes has also had a few bright spots at the plate. Barmes had two doubles against the Cubs and is the only Pirate not named McCutchen with an extra base hit.
When Jared Hughes surrendered a two-run home run to Chicago’s Nate Scheirholtz in the ninth inning on Thursday it was just the first hit allowed by a Pittsburgh relief pitcher this season.
Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson and Jason Grilli combined to throw 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and zero walks. Hughes also gave up the bullpen’s only walk so far, also in the ninth on Thursday.
In Wednesday’s win the bullpen took center stage in the late innings of the game. Watson came in with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and was able to get out of the jam before pitching a perfect eighth inning before Grilli came in (to much fanfare) for his first appearance as the Pirates’ closer and promptly struck out two Cubs and got his first save of the season.
As bad as the offense has been in this very young season, the pitching staff as a whole has performed at a level that will help the team win games.
As Tim noted in today’s First Pitch, the possibility of the designated hitter coming to the National League looks very real with the changes made to the MLB schedule associated with the Astros move to the American League.
Prior to Thursday’s game, a reporter asked Cubs manager Dale Sveum for his thoughts about bringing the DH to the senior circuit.
“I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is,” he said. “Obviously it makes sense now with the new scheduling and all that. I enjoy the National League game and I enjoy managing the National League game.”
The Pirates first interleague series is May 7 and May 8 in Pittsburgh against Seattle, and the first time Pittsburgh will be forced to use a DH this season will be in late May when the Pirates travel to Detroit for a two-game series.
I’ve been asked a few times what I think about the lineups the Pirates have used so far, and all I’ll say at this point is this: we’re only three games into the season, so I’ll reserve judgement about Clint Hurdle’s lineup decisions until we get a broader picture of what he is trying to do. James Santelli will be at Dodger Stadium tonight while I will be following along at home (which is a long way from Los Angeles).