I’ve been to three Pirate games thus far, this season. The young season has not treated me well, personally, as I am 0-3 when seeing live games.
Pittsburgh has been outscored 19-5 in those games.
The offense was looked at as an emerging force in the preseason as a young group of hitters were polishing off solid seasons in 2010. While players such as Jose Tabata (.310 BA, .420 OBP) and Neil Walker (11 RBI, .517 SLG) have anchored the top of the lineup, shortcomings from Pedro Alvarez (20 Ks, .197 BA) and a slump from Andrew McCutchen (2-for-30 in at-bats entering Sunday) hindered the team from getting proper production.
Most of it has changed this series against the Reds.
On Friday the Pirates scored six runs en route to a 6-1 victory.
Sunday, Pittsburgh notched seven runs to sneak by with a 7-6 win.
Players, other than those aforementioned, have stepped up and delivered to put these bigger numbers on the board.
Of course, they would do it on the road, when I’m not there.
Chris Snyder has gone 3-for-7 in these two wins.
After starting the season on the disabled list, Snyder was penciled in behind the plate, right away, moving Ryan Doumit to a bench spot. His production has been consistent to open his season which should keep him in the starting lineup for a majority of games from here on out. His biggest asset is not at the plate, though, it’s behind it. Pitchers rave about his quality of calling games and he played a big part in Charlie Morton’s complete game against the Reds on Friday.
In a platoon with Matt Diaz in right field, Garrett Jones has had his back against the wall. His decline in power had the front office concerned, but now he is beginning his comeback campaign. Jones has it two homers in the series and brought his average up to a respectable .282. Diaz has struggled to sustain a presence at the plate. So, it may play to Jones’ advantage is he continues to produce consistently. He may just get that starting job back.
If Jones and Diaz both falter another viable option is waiting in the wings. John Bowker is trying to find his identity on the Bucs. He hasn’t been the first used pinch hitter of the bench, so far, but that decision may change quickly. He brought in the winning run in the top of the 8th inning, Sunday. Bowker drilled a 2-out pitch to deep center field that could have been a home run in other ballparks, while adding further insurance with just that one swing of the bat.
Prior to the Reds series, manager Clint Hurdle tinkered with the lineup to make a change.
It was needed.
As I said before, the offense was dormant to open the season at home. My three games were pitiful and beyond that, the funk at the plate scorned the early optimism that many fans accumulated. Hurdle moved McCutchen up to the leadoff spot from the three hole. Tabata will bat second, with Lyle Overbay third. Walker is now the cleanup hitter dropping from the two hole.
These moves paid off as more runs were produced, save for Saturday’s 11-2 beat down. As Tabata has proved he is the best hitter on the team, the second spot is the perfect fit for him. He is 5-for-14 in the new spot. McCutchen began his new role with an 0-for-5 performance, but has since proved that his natural position is where he wants to be. He led off Sunday’s game with a home run. Walker isn’t the most natural cleanup hitter. He doesn’t have the most power on the team, although he does have three dingers. But, No. 2 wasn’t ideal for him, either. He strikes out too much and that is not the best liability to have in a two hitter.
The Pirates will stay in Cincinnati for a Monday game to close out the series. A win would pit them back at the .500 mark going to Florida to do battle with the Marlins on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Then it’s back home to host the Nationals over Easter weekend. I will be in attendance for one of those games ready to be entertained with some offensive action.
photo credits: postgazette.com, bleacherreport.com, daylife.com