Well that was a little better than the past couple of nights, wasn't it? The Pirates put up double digit hits for what seems the first time in forever and Andrew McCutchen continued his dominance of the Nationals in a 5-3 win. It was nice for the guys to get a win after losing a pair of games in a row. Not letting this snowball into a long losing streak is key and at the tail end of last year the Pirates would have coughed up this game and let the Nationals win it. The Nationals made it a close game but the Pirates did what they haven't done much this year and that was get the insurance run when they needed it.
James McDonald had a pretty weird outing tonight. For the first five innings he was just simply outstanding. He allowed only one base runner (a walk to Bryce Harper) and struck out nine of the first 12 hitters he faced. Then came the sixth inning, and for as good as the first five innings were the sixth was pretty bad. He wasn't able to finish the sixth inning as he only went 5.2 innings but did enough to still earn the win. In the sixth the Nationals led off with back-to-back doubles and JMac almost got out of the jam as he got a ground out and a strikeout with runners on second and third (no the lead off double did not score on the second double. I know, weird) but Ryan Zimmerman singled through the right side to cut the Pirates lead to 3-2. He was then pulled. Overall he struck out 11 guys and even though he had a bad sixth inning the outing was still pretty good. A big problem with McDonald in the past was that he would throw too many pitches and couldn't command the zone but that has totally changed this year and this game he was good as was evident by five almost perfect innings. It is just the kind of progress you like to see and hopefully it continues.
So, this McCutchen guy is pretty good at baseball huh? What did he do tonight? Oh nothing much, just went 2-for-4 with a pair of home runs and raised his average to .349. He is on some kind of tear right now and he owns the Washington Nationals. In his career against the Nationals he 38-for-86 with ten home runs. His OPS is well over one and for some reason he just likes playing that team. Just pretty ridiculous stuff. With the way the Pirates offense has been this year I have no idea why people are pitching to this guy. He had a little cold streak like three weeks ago but has since just been on fire. It is really fun to see.
Josh Harrison is earning himself some playing time. I am not a huge Harrison fan because I think he is no more than a depth bench guy but he had another two hits tonight which included another extra base hit. With how Clint Barmes has played I see no reason why Harrison should be on the bench tomorrow. Sure he is not going to keep this up for a really long time but you have to ride the hot hand while you have it.
I have talked about this the last couple of nights but Rod Barajas has actually been good. Three hits tonight and his average is now up to a more respectable .214 as he hit another home run tonight. Now Barajas isn't going to be a guy who is going to hit .270 as he is a .230-ish career hitter and he isn't going to get on base a lot but what he does give you is really good defense and a steady hand behind the plate for the staff. I can take him hitting .240 or so if he can get to that. He has been playing pretty well lately as the great James Santelli noted:
Rod Barajas since April 21: .296 batting average and a .864 OPS in 57 plate appearances. How about that? #Pirates— James Santelli (@JamesSantelli) May 18, 2012
If there is one guy who needs to forget about this game it is Jose Tabata. Not only did he go 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts but he misplayed a few balls in left field. It has been a pretty frustrating year for Jose already and he was swinging a pretty good bat for a few weeks but has cooled off since and I think you are starting to see the frustration come out a little bit. In the ninth inning with runners on first and second Tabata hit a ball pretty much on the plate and it was played for a 2-5-3 double play and Tabata just jogged the whole way down to first base. I know he is frustrated and I understand that but you have to try and leg it out. I would sit him tomorrow as a sort of punishment and I would make sure that the media knows that is why he was sitting. You can't do stuff like that, it is embarrassing.
Joel Hanrahan got the save for his eighth of the year but he didn't really look good. He allowed the tying run to reach base and really just doesn't look confident out there. The velocity is still there but the command that he had last season just doesn't seem to be. As you know I am a guy that thinks the Pirates should try to move him but he isn't pitching well right now. Hopefully he can go on a hot streak. He has the talent in him and when he can find it, watch out.
There aren't many reasons I want to see Nate McLouth on the field. Just bad.
Justin Verlander tomorrow. Yikes.