First Pitch: Getting Hot at the Right Time

There’s one thing I’ve been saying in a lot of different articles over the past few days, and it remained true today: the Pirates have a lot of players who are getting hot at the right time.

The playoffs are set up in a way where, once you’re in, you can win it all. Anyone can win a one game Wild Card matchup. Anyone can win a best of five or a best of seven series. It’s not as much about talent in these cases. Instead, it’s about which team gets hot at the right time.

The Pirates have had a streaky offense all year. Their pitching staff has been consistent, and the main inconsistency on that front has been injuries. Lately they are seeing several members of the offense heating up, while watching the pitching staff fine tuning a few things along the way. Here are the recent trends from some of those players.

Starling Marte – Starting with his home run earlier in the week, Marte has a .357/.438/.643 line in 16 PA. That doesn’t include going 1-for-5 today.

Neil Walker is one of several hitters getting hot at the right time. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Neil Walker is one of several hitters getting hot at the right time. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Neil Walker – He had a four hit game on September 19th, and has gone .310/.412/.759 since that time, not counting today. Today’s numbers only add to that, as he went 2-for-5 with two homers. That gives him six homers in his last 34 at-bats.

Pedro Alvarez – He has a hit in eight of his last nine games, including today. Not including today, that stretch put him at .313/.353/.563 in 32 at-bats. Today he went 2-for-4 with a homer, his third during this stretch.

Marlon Byrd – He hasn’t been hitting for as much power lately, or this month, but he is hitting for average and getting on base. Today he did all of that, hitting a home run and picking up two other hits. That was his third multi-hit game in his last four games.

And in the “hopefully he’s heating back up” department…

Andrew McCutchen – He has been on a cold streak, going 3-for-27 in the last eight games leading into today’s game. He went 2-for-5 with a homer today. The three hits from before came in the second half of his cold streak. He’s now 5-for-19 in his last five games. That’s not great, but much better than the cold streak. I wouldn’t say McCutchen is on a hot streak at all, but hopefully today was the start of a well-timed hot streak from the MVP.

And then there’s the pitchers…

Francisco Liriano – He’s coming off a bad start against the Cubs, but that was on the road. The previous outing was at home, against the Reds, and saw him go eight innings with two runs allowed. The Pirates could use that kind of performance on Tuesday.

A.J. Burnett – In his final three starts of the year he has a 2.08 ERA in 21.2 innings, with a 26:7 K/BB ratio.

Charlie Morton – He didn’t have his best stuff today, and I’d say that’s due to the lefty-heavy Reds, but he usually does well against Cincinnati. In his previous two starts he has combined for one run allowed in 15 innings. He’s also been one of the best pitchers in the rotation over the last two months.

Gerrit Cole – You could argue that Cole has been the best pitcher in the rotation over the last two months, although he’s been on another level recently. In his last four starts he has a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings, with a 34:9 K/BB ratio. Those are ace numbers. He won’t be making his start tomorrow, and will be available for use in the Wild Card game.

The rotation is going to be the most important thing for the playoff success, but if the Pirates can also get production from McCutchen, Alvarez, Walker, Byrd, and Marte (AKA, the top and middle of the lineup), then they’re going to be in good shape in the post season.

Links and Notes

**Playoff Race Updates: Cardinals Close to Taking the Top Seed

**Pirates Power Their Way to Home Field in the Wild Card Game

**Here I take a look at my playoff roster, and ask Who Would Be On Your Playoff Roster?

**From earlier this week: Moneyball – The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Version

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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