Pittsburgh Pirates Hero and Goat – Kinda Sorta Back in the Race

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The Pittsburgh Pirates won another series in Miller Park and found themselves back in the Wildcard race…sort of.

 

The Pittsburgh Pirates had easily their worst stretch of the season when they lost 12 out of 14 games. They saw themselves fade far out of playoff contention and the team looked to be spiraling towards a losing season. However, a 7-4 road trip really changed the mojo of the final month of the season. It would have been very easy for the team to give up on the season but they responded to their poor streak with back-to-back series victories over Reds and Brewers.

This most recent venture into Miller Park went very well. The team won two out of the three games and had a good opportunity to sweep but unfortunately lost game three. The series feature more solid baseball by the Buccos as they have really proved they aren’t quitting on the season despite likely heading towards a non-playoff finish. The team at least made the final handful of games at least somewhat meaningful. 2016 won’t be remembered super fondly but at least the club showed it has moxie.

Hero of the Series

This series did not feature the best starting pitching for the Pirates. None of the three pitched late into the ballgames but they did enough. The offense more heroics from Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier. However, for my money, the team’s Hero of the Series was Andrew McCutchen.

McCutchen went 6-13 (.461) with one home run, two doubles, three RBIs, and a run scored. The 2013 NL MVP used the entire field with his hitting approach and really has settled in so far in September. For the month he is hitting .309/.389/.593/.982 with six home runs and 18 RBIs. He has looked more like the player we’re familiar with for most of the last two months. Success to end the season doesn’t mean he’ll bounce back in 2017 but it certainly helps improve the mood on McCutchen going into the offseason.

McCutchen is having a poor season by his measures, no doubt about it. However, if he keeps up his September pace, he will end having a fairly okay season by traditional metrics. The power numbers have been impressive and he could end up finishing with over 80 RBIs. No one will confuse 2016 with his MVP-caliber seasons of the past but if this is his worst season, it shows you just how good of a player McCutchen was from 2011-2015. The organization will certainly hope for a bounce back season in 2017 and a good finish hopefully, sets him on track for that.

Goat of the Series

The offense was pretty respectable in two out of the three games of this series. Unfortunately, the starting pitching outside of Chad Kuhl failed to really deliver. That made this decision easy as it obviously had to be one of the starters. My pick for Goat of the Series is Steven Brault.

Brault started game one of the series and managed to only last four innings, he allowed three runs on five hits with two walks. He really wasn’t effective and it kind of set the tone for the mostly poor starting pitching the series. A poor start hurts the bullpen and while that doesn’t matter much in September with the huge rosters, you still want to see the young pitchers go deep into games.

Brault has had a pretty solid first run in the big leagues and this start shouldn’t be more than a brief setback. I expect you’ll see him in camp competing for a job in Spring Training. He has shown the ability to get outs at the Big League level and he’s considered a top prospect for a reason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brault bounce back and have a good outing in his next start.

Final Thoughts

It will take a small miracle for the Pirates to make the playoffs but it’s still very nice to see the team fighting. This season has been a disappointment but at this point, it’s good to see young players getting experience and adjusting to playing at the Major League level. That could prove to be vital for this team in 2017 and beyond.

When the Pirates were in the middle of their late August to early September swoon, many fans accused the team of giving.  I think winning five of their last seven prove the team hasn’t quit and they still take pride in their work. This team is made up of competitors that want to win. They will not always deliver but it’s important to remember they want to win more than anyone. I said it during the losing streak and I will say it now during their improved play.

2016 is coming to a close and it may very well prove to be a bridge year to next season and beyond but there are still games to be played. I am very curious to see how the Pirates respond to the upcoming tough stretch of games. They are playing some very good opponents and I know this team doesn’t want to have a losing season. Hopefully, they are up to the challenge.

Up Next

The Pirates return home following their 11 game road trip. They begin a three-game series with the Washington Nationals. Jameson Taillon takes on Gio Gonzalez. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.

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