Ike Davis has not been a particularly great acquisition for the Pirates this year. I guess he’s provided the Pirates some Garrett-Jones-level production for slightly less money than Garrett Jones would’ve cost, but Garrett-Jones-level production these days is about replacement level, which is squarely where Davis sits in his few months with the Pirates. You don’t trade potentially useful relief arms or second round draft picks for replacement players, though, and so in that regard, Davis has been a disappointment.
That being said, Davis came out of the gates strongly in the second half, and though his power and batting average have slumped again in August, his OBP this month is still strong. Since the break, Davis is hitting .255/.359/.491. And so he’s being benched tonight so that Pedro Alvarez can play first base. Pedro Alvarez has not drawn a walk since July 25th. Pedro Alvarez has not hit a home run since July 11th. Pedro Alvarez has not played first base at any point in his professional career until he started taking ground balls there within the last month. Because Alvarez has moved to first base tonight, Brent Morel will start at third base. I suppose the possibility always exists that Alvarez will go nuts with two home runs and carry the team tonight, but it’s extremely hard to understand how anyone involved in the decision-making for this process decided that this game was the one where it was time to execute the “Pedro Alvarez at first base” experiment, and that’s a million times more true with Josh Harrison covering for an injured Jordy Mercer at shortstop. The best possibly explanation for this is that Clint Hurdle is essentially saying, “Ah, screw it, it can’t get any worse than it’s already been over the last week. Let’s go for it!” That’s not particularly comforting.
That, of course, is because this is the most important game the Pirates have played this year. They’re mired in a five-game losing streak, they’ve more or less fallen out of the NL Central race, and suddenly they’re staring at a 1 1/2 game deficit for the second wild card and facing falling behind the Braves into four place in the wild card race with a bad series against Atlanta this week. The Pirates have to find a way to play competent baseball this week against the Braves and the Brewers, or they might as well just go home now. Obviously every game takes on its own narrative once it starts, but putting Pedro Alvarez at first base for his first ever start and Brent Morel at third is hardly priming the fire for “competent baseball.”
Anyway, Vance Worley is on the mound tonight for the Pirates’ biggest game of the year. He got roughed up a bit in his last start against the Tigers, though that was against the Tigers and in Detroit and was not at all helped by the Pirates’ defense. Facing the Braves at PNC Park obviously ameliorates two of those conditions. The third? Well, let’s cross our fingers. Ervin Santana starts for the Braves. I think the best way to describe his season thus far in 2014 is “average.” I don’t really have much more to say about him.
Put-up-or-shut-up week starts now. First pitch is at 7:05.