Over much of the recent past I have been all over the offense (as I should have been) for how bad they were. Today they were the highlight of the game. The Pirates pounded out 14 hits and went 6-of-17 with runners in scoring position. As bad as the Pirates have been with RISP they regressed to the mean (in a good way) and got it taken care of tonight. In the first inning they started the game with back-to-back doubles and scored three runs and really set the tone offensively in the win.
Travis Snider and Jordy Mercer were the only starters not to record a hit and they hit in the seventh and eighth spot in the order so that puts in perspective what the offense did tonight. Actually Pedro Alvarez was the only of the other six position players to get a hit that only had one hit on the night. That is what I am talking about. That is what you expect when you play the Marlins.
What you don't expect when you play the Marlins is letting them get back into the game after you take a substantial lead. The Bucs got out to an early 3-0 lead but they gave one of the runs back in the bottom of the first inning. Not terrible but when you throw up a crooked number the thing you want to do is put a zero in the next half inning. The second inning was scoreless but the Bucs offense was able to put up two more runs in the top of the third inning to take a 5-1 lead and most people (myself included) thought this game was pretty much over. The problem was that the Marlins didn't as they got three runs in the bottom of the third inning thanks to a pair of errors from the Pirates and five hits from the Marlins.
Luckily Charlie Morton was able to settle down the the Pirates were able to add on two more runs at the end of the night to give them some room for mistake that they wouldn't need.
It is really hard to figure out Morton. At points he looks like he is the guy that we all want him to be and then at other times he looks rather ordinary. Tonight he wasn't good and he wasn't bad, he was just ordinary. He was only able to go five innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on nine hits. The good thing was that he didn't walk a single batter and he struck out six but you need to get more than five innings out of a starter. He gave up almost two hits an inning and really didn't wow you like he has at some points this season. The Pirates won so it really doesn't much matter to me but I would like to see a little more from Chuck. the defense wasn't good behind him but nine hits in five innings isn't good.
You know who had a great night? Michael McKenry. He went 4-for-5 and while he was injured later in the game he really gutted it out and finished the game thanks to Russell Martin being out due to a bummed knee (that isn't thought to be serious). I know some people are really going to try and talk themselves into being all about McKenry after tonight but I think we need to keep this in perspective. He had a really good night but this is more of an outlier than it is something that we should expect going forward. I think this tweet from Tim Williams really said it all:
Michael McKenry had three hits from May 30th to July 20th. That's not a joke.— Tim Williams (@timwilliamsP2) July 28, 2013
McKenry probably isn't one of the best 25 that should be on the big club and that doesn't change after the game tonight. He seems like a great guy and a person that all clubhouses would like to have but his talent just isn't there. If he could play some defense then I could understand it, but he can't. I think of it like this, if Martin would go down in a Wild Card playoff game would you feel great about McKenry being behind the plate? I wouldn't. Maybe Tony Sanchez wouldn't do great but I think I would rather have him in that position than McKenry. Again, he had a really good night and that was a big reason the Pirates won tonight but that should be the extent of how we look into this, just tonight.
Starling Marte is a frustrating player to watch for me. If he was even close to average in in plate discipline he would be an unreal player. He still has been really good this year but I brought this up at during the game tonight and I think this is where it is tough to watch Marte in the leadoff spot:
Marte ranks 142 out of 151 qualified hitters is walk rate (3.8%) and 137th in O-Swing% (% of pitches swung outside strike zone) at 38.5%— Cory (@ThreeRiversBlog) July 28, 2013
League average in walk rate is 7.8% and in O-Swing% is 30.6 %— Cory (@ThreeRiversBlog) July 28, 2013
Look, Marte is an unreal talent and is wildly exciting to watch but if he is going to leadoff for the Pirates he is going to have to start being better at the plate. His on base percentage is largely tied to his batting average and that isn't a good thing. He does get hit by a pitches a good bit but that doesn't make up for his ability to not take a walk and swinging at way too many pitches outside of the zone. I like Marte but for him to be more successful he has to work on this and get closer to the league average. I am not sure he can do this but if he does he could probably be close to a McCutchen like player with a little less power, better defensive ability and offer a ton more stolen bases.
Neil Walker is a guy I am not really high on but he had a night tonight. He had a hit in his first three at bats (I think) and ended the night 3-for-5. He is a guy that if he can get his bat going, even if only on the left handed side, it could be a massive plus for the Pirates offense going forward.
Good win for the Pirates. Win the series tomorrow.