The Oakland Athletics start a three-game series against the Pirates tonight at PNC Park, arriving 9-0 against the Bucs and the only Major League team that is undefeated against one opponent. They swept the Pirates in their only Pittsburgh series in 2002 and also pulled off home sweeps in 2004 and 2010.
This interleague series also reunites the A’s with former third baseman Brandon Inge, who hit for a .675 OPS with Oakland last year and played on a team that was 46-28 when he appeared in a game. Brandon suffered a right shoulder injury in September and didn’t play in the team’s push to the AL West title.
Though Inge is struggling mightily for the Pirates (.214 OBP, .464 OPS) and is starting in two straight games for the first time in a month Monday night, A’s manager Bob Melvin praised Inge’s veteran ability to help younger teammates with his Inge-tangibles.
“He’s a great fit in the clubhouse and he was well-liked here,” Melvin said. “He was a great fit for us. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons they brought him in here was the presence he brings.”
Even without Inge supplying offense for the Pirates, the team maintains a tied-for-league-best record of 53-34, and A’s outfielder Brandon Moss liked that the infielder kept teammates loose even when he was injured, calling Inge one of his favorite teammates.
“For a younger team that was going down the stretch, that was welcomed.”
Both Melvin and Moss noted Inge’s knack for important hits in clutch situations. When Inge doesn’t have a bat in his hands, he’ll have a hockey stick. Inge was seen roller blading around the Pirates’ clubhouse, and he would play hockey with teammates outside the Oakland clubhouse last year as well.
“He’s tough as nails,” Moss said. “He’s one of those guys that doesn’t take himself too seriously and enjoys every day he has in the game. A lot of guys can learn from that.”
Former A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy said in March that Inge makes guys comfortable in a way that “trickles down” to the rest of the team. The Pirates, at least in my opinion, may need to see more on the field than off to keep the infielder on the club for the rest of the season.
Pedro Alvarez Not Selected for HR Derby
Mets’ third baseman made his selections for next Monday’s Home Run Derby as the National League captain: the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer as well as the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. Conspicuously absent are the Phillies’ Domonic Brown (2nd in the NL in home runs) and the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez (3rd in home runs).
It seems leaving Alvarez off the roster was all Wright’s decision, as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before the announcement he would “have no problem” with Alvarez swinging for the fences in New York.
“It could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Hurdle said.
Instead, it looks like Alvarez will watch from the sidelines as other hitters swing for the Derby championship in his hometown.
“Will somebody explain to me how the hell Pedro [Alvarez] is not in the Homerun Derby?” pitcher A.J. Burnett tweeted. “Does the National League not wanna win?
Second baseman Neil Walker is still experiencing soreness in his right side, though he said is feeling “a little better.” Walker took some swings and felt okay after suffering the injury Saturday in Chicago. He has not and will not undergo an MRI.
Plan for Cole, Locke
Starting pitcher Jeff Locke starts Game 1 of this A’s series and is scheduled to start Sunday for the Pirates in their last game before the break. Locke is not likely to pitch in the All-Star Game on one day of rest, though he is allowed to pitch one inning if he wants.
Gerrit Cole will make only one more start before the All-Star Break, taking the mound Tuesday night. Hurdle said the Pirates are “mindful” of the rookie’s innings, as he has totaled 98 this season and has never thrown more than 132 in any season since he arrived at UCLA.
Hurdle called the upcoming schedule “an opportunity… we can taken advantage of.” The manager did not elaborate, but it sounds to me like Cole will be fifth in the Pirates rotation coming out of the All-Star Break.