(Opening image credit, si.com)
1. With their 9-4 defeat of the Seattle Mariners last night, the Pirates moved a season-high 17 games over .500. This is the first time since the 1992 Barry Bonds-led team that they’ve reached this level.
2. Brandon Inge hit his first HR of the season last night, but is still parked at a .503 OPS through 93 at bats, nearly identical to fellow veteran Clint Barmes’s .502 OPS through 164 at bats. With the NL playoffs a realistic possibility at this point, GM Neal Huntington needs to consider purging some of this dead roster weight, even if Manager Clint Hurdle loves them.
3. Jeff Locke won his 7th game in a row (with 8 no-decisions scattered within), and has to be considered a surprise Cy Young candidate at this point, with a 7-1 record, and 2.06 ERA that ranks 2nd in the National League. It’s unlikely that Locke maintains this pace over the final 3 months of the season, but the young lefty also isn’t winning with smoke and mirrors. Locke has shown excellent control, has kept the ball down in the zone to hitters, and boasts an effective off speed arsenal.
4. As noted by ESPN, Monday was 1 of only 8 off days for the Pirates scattered throughout the season, and the Buccos are 8-0 after an off day, stretching back to 2012. While fans often grouse at how “easy” professional athletes have it, baseball players receive little time off from their jobs to relax or spend with their families from March through September. And hopefully in the Pirates’ case this year, October.
5. The Pirates have won 5 in a row, and own the 2nd-best record in all of baseball at 47-30. Unfortunately, the team with the best record sits 1 game in front of them in the NL Central. However, it was less than a week ago that the St. Louis Cardinals were 21 games over .500, and seemingly out of reach. Meanwhile, the Pirates have passed- and put a bit of distance from- the Cincinnati Reds, who sit 3.5 back of the Red Birds.
6. The West Coast swing through Anaheim and Seattle has been a shot in the arm for the Pirates’ beleaguered offense. On the OPS front, 2 regulars (Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen), and one platoon half (Gaby Sanchez) now sit above .800, while LF Starling Marte– on the heels of his 2-homer, triple night at the plate- is within striking distance at .797, with C Russell Martin (.790) not far behind.
7. Somewhat lost in the flurry of positive moves surrounding the Buccos this season is the emergence of Marte as a full-time MLB regular. The rookie has a 1.8 WAR (wins above replacement player), and has been effective with the bat (8 HR, 24 RBI) on the basepaths (22 SB) and defensively, most recently gunning out a runner at home during the Angels’ series. A LF-CF tandem of Marte and McCutchen is one of the best in baseball this year, and hopefully will be for years to come.
The Pirates go for 6 in a row- and a mini 2-game sweep- of the Mariners tonight. Thanks for reading.