The Pittsburgh Pirates next 12 games will decide the National League Central title. The pitching staff has started to return to form allowing just 2.8 runs per game in the last seven with the starters putting up solid numbers while the bullpen has done nice work, even if it’s against the Cubs and a struggling Texas team.
The pitching has been good enough. The offense hasn’t, which isn’t alarming to anyone. The Pirates offense ranks 18th in slugging, 22nd in runs scored and 19th in slugging.
But the chase for October production from three players has been eye-opening.
As we look at the past ten games when the Bucs scored 2.7 runs per game, a noticeable trend pops off the screen. Three players are struggling. Three key players.
Neil Walker is in a 3-for-35 funk. Hometown is hitting .086 with two walks and eight strikeouts in his past ten games.
Russell Martin is in a 4-for-32 funk. The most durable and, arguably, best defensive catcher in the game, is hitting .125 with eleven strikeouts–the big hit was the white stuffing in the oreo back-to-back-to-back homer fest against the Cubs.
Pedro Alvarez is in a 6-for-32 funk. ElToro has one homer, the inside-the-park sixteen second sprint (ForbestoFederalGIF) with three walks and eight strikeouts.
The funk is starting to stink.
After a .305/.364/.457/.822 August with eight doubles, a triple and two bombs, Walker has a .151/.196/.226/.432 September.
After a .208/.273/.333/.606 August with six doubles, two triples, and five dingers, Alvarez has four doubles, no triples, and the inside the park homer in September. The September line is bad for Petey, .188/.273/.333/.606. After 24 first half homers, Pedro has nine in the second half.
After a .213/.304/.413/.717 August with four doubles and four cannonball blasts, Martin’s bat has vanished in September. No doubles. No triples. One homer. One RBI. The numbers are even worse .111/.200/.194/.394.
The National League Central Title will not be won without offensive contributions from at least two of these three players. If the trend continues for Walker, Alvarez, and Martin a one-game playoff is firmly in the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The pitching staff won’t shut down the Reds for six games, the power of Walker, Alvarez and Martin is desperately needed.
El Toro alone can carry this new Pirates offense. Sprinkle in a few doubles from Martin and Walker? Watch out.
A hot Pedro could devestate the chances of the Cardinals and Reds. Nobody in the Bucs lineup can change a game with the quickness of Alvarez.
Walker and Martin can add the same dynamic with their ability to hit the gaps in the final 12 games.
And when one considers that Andrew McCutchen is destroying baseballs at a remarkable rate, the Pirates offense could be set to explode at just the right time.