As much as I want Andrew McCutchen back in the lineup as soon as possible, seeing the Pirates’ secondary players combine together for easy wins and a lot of runs in two straight games is a really nice feeling of validation that the Pirates are a more complete organization and not just a team that’s good because it’s lucky enough to have Andrew McCutchen. That’s not to say that I think that this team is a playoff team if McCutchen is out a significant time or anything, just that it’s really cool to see things immediately not revert back to the bad old days just as soon as McCutchen misses some time concurrently with Neil Walker.
Tonight was particularly encouraging, as it was Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco that lead the charge at the plate, and as I wrote on Monday, I think improved performances from those two at the plate are the best way for the Pirates to get through this trying time. Marte had two doubles tonight and he scored after both of them, thanks to Polanco’s two-run single in the fourth and two-run double in the eighth. It certainly made me think about the fun run back in June before Polanco started slumping a bit when the Marte/Polanco/McCutchen triumvirate was in effect and terrorizing opponents. Since Polanco has looked pretty good lately and Marte seems to be coming around after his injury, hopefully we’re not too far away from a return to those days.
Of course, those two weren’t the only contributors. Jordy Mercer had three hits, drove in a run, scored twice, and scared the crap out of everybody when he lined a ball off of reliever Dan Jennings’ head. Hopefully Jennings is OK; I missed the play live, but the replay is terrifying. Russell Martin also reached base twice, scored a run, and drove in a run.
None of this even mentions Edinson Volquez, who might have made his best start as a Pirate. He held the Marlins to one hit in his seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking three. It’s been a while since he’s turned in a really solid start, so it’s nice to see him back on track. With so much uncertainty around Gerrit Cole right now, it’s hard to say what Volquez’s role is going forward, but he made a nice case for himself tonight. The bullpen looked pretty good tonight, too, with Justin Wilson and Stolmy Pimentel striking out two apiece and displaying some good looking stuff. The only real mistake came when Pimentel tried to sneak a high fastball past Giancarlo Stanton on a full count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Marlins’ two runs didn’t come from nowhere, you know.
The Brewers and Cardinals both won today, so this was an important “keeping pace” win. The Padres are in town next with their historically anemic offense, so hopefully the last two games of this series are a sign that the Pirates can keep things going at least through the weekend without ‘Cutch in the lineup. We’ll worry about the rest of the schedule after that.