Let’s start with last night’s game: I’m inclined once again to ignore the ninth inning debacle, because it was different than Friday’s ninth inning debacle and Stolmy Pimentel giving up two two-run home runs in the ninth inning of a six-run game feels like an isolated incident. I won’t pretend like Jason Grilli coming in and serving up a single to the first hitter he faced to put Giancarlo Stanton into the on-deck circle as the winning run didn’t terrify me, but again, it’s just hard to see it as something other than a fluke circumstance. I am going to be unhappy if I hate to write “I’m inclined to ignore the ninth inning debacle again” after today’s game, though.
What I do want to talk about is the offense, of course. Randy Wolf looked about like I thought Randy Wolf would look; tired, old, and overmatched. The Pirates threatened quite a bit early on, and I remember thinking to myself as the Pirates went through the back of their lineup for the second time that if they could get McCutchen up before Wolf was pulled, something good would happen. McCutchen obliterated his 11th homer of the year and put an end to any thoughts of a slump that might have cropped up after his six hitless at-bats between his two hits on Friday and his two hits on Saturday. That’s how hot McCutchen has been; the only sign of a slump this month came in a little interregnum in the middle of two two-hit games. In fact, he hasn’t had less than two hits in a game since last Saturday, and he’s hitting .415/.483/.981 with nine doubles and seven homers in 13 games this month. It’s an absurdity at this point.
In fact, every Pirate had at least one hit yesterday and in two games in Miami, the Pirates have 35 hits (17 on Friday and 18 on Saturday). The Polanco/Marte/McCutchen Triumvirate has a grand total of (seriously sit down and brace yourself for this because it’s incredible) 17 hits, eight runs scored, 10 RBIs, and three home runs in these two games. This has all just been incredible to watch.
Yesterday’s win got the Pirates back to .500. 34-34 on the morning of Father’s Day is no small achievement after being 18-26 on May 20th, but it’s hard not to want more. If you remember back to April 14th of last year, the Pirates staged a dramatic Mike McKenry fueled comeback against the Reds to level their record at 6-6 after a 1-5 start. I remember thinking that day, half jokingly, that it’d be great if the Pirates never saw the other side of .500 again in 2013. They dropped two of their next three to fall to 7-8, but after they got to 8-8, they never looked back. That’s where I hope this Pirate team is headed. Since they dropped 15 of 19 after their 6-3 start, they’re 24-16. The Pirates have a big series with the Reds this week, and then the schedule opens up with the Cubs, Rays, Mets, and Diamondbacks. The time for the Pirates to separate themselves from the .500 mark is right now.
Today, Vance Worley makes his first Pirate start in Francisco Liriano’s rotation spot. He may only get a one-start audition because it looks like Gerrit Cole’s bullpen session went well, though I suppose a strong start here might keep him up over Brandon Cumpton once Cole is ready to return. To give you the brief Vance Worley bio sketch, he had a pretty promising rookie year for the Phillies as a 23-year old in 2011, though he mostly came off of the prospect radar to do so. Still, his 119 strikeouts against 46 walks backed up his 13-3 record and 3.01 ERA nicely, even if he was obviously out-pitching his peripherals some. He regressed a bit in 2012, but increased his groundballs some (~39% to ~46%) and was the main piece for the Twins in the Ben Revere trade. He was really bad for the Twins last year, though, and they basically gave him to the Pirates this spring. He’s only made seven starts with Indianapolis this year and though his ERA isn’t great (4.30), he’s racked up 43 strikeouts and just four walks in his 46 innings. Besides two six-run starts, (May 23rd and June 2nd), he’s really pitched pretty well. As spot-starters go, I think the Pirates could probably do worse than giving Worley the ball here.
They’re probably going to need a decent start from him today since Henderson Alvarez is going for the Marlins and he’s probably going to end the 15+ hit parade. Alvarez already has three complete game shutouts this year to go with his no-hitter on the last day of the 2013 season. You should probably just read this Mike Pietriello FanGraphs post about him, because he’s a really interesting pitcher that’s tough to figure out at this point in his career.
Anyway, the first pitch today is at 1:10. The Pirates have won four in a row and they’re back at .500 for the first time since Easter Weekend, which is a weekend we’re not going to talk about anymore. It’s time to leave .500 in the dust and start talking about bigger things.