I don’t really know exactly how long Andrew McCutchen will be out or how his absence is going to play out in the 2014 National League playoff race, but I do know that one sign that the Pirates have come a lot further in the last few years than most of us would like to admit on the worst days was the first inning of this game tonight. Without Andrew McCutchen or Neil Walker, the Pirates still jumped on the Marlins for four first inning runs thanks to a double from Josh Harrison (who has spent the last two weeks doing his absolute best to prove to everyone that his first half wasn’t a fluke) walks from Gregory Polanco and Russell Martin, an Ike Davis double, and then some productive outs from Travis Snider and Starling Marte, and then finally a Jordy Mercer single in the second half of the lineup. That group of players is not a modern Lumber Company the way that the Pirates can be when Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez are in the lineup and thumping the way that they can on their best nights, but it’s still a pretty talented collection of baseball players and a lineup capable of being dangerous on its best nights.
Josh Harrison was the only Pirate with multiple hits tonight (he was 3-for-4 and scored twice) and the Pirates only scored in two innings, but the Bucs still scrapped together seven runs on nine hits and four walks. Basically, they got people on base, the first basemen both delivered (Gaby Sanchez had a two-run double of his own in the seventh inning), and the Pirates won.
I don’t know how many wins the Pirates will need without McCutchen to stay in the NL playoff race, but whatever that number was on Monday, the Pirates are one win closer to it. They don’t need to impress anyone during this stretch (particularly not during this stretch where Walker is out, too); they only need to survive.