This weekend, I was able to see the majority of 3 out of 4 games with the Indianapolis Indians vs the Gwinnett Braves. I went there excited to watch Gregory Polanco up close for the first time to see what all of the hype is about. I will recap my impressions about Polanco and how he will fit in with the Pirates. I will also give some thoughts on the team overall at this point after a disappointing road trip against the Brewers and Yankees.
Prior to the first game, I got pretty close to Polanco as he was excited to greet fans seeking out his autograph. He hung out for a little while and signed as many as he could until he needed to start warming up. I will say, much like what you read, Polanco is a very big guy, 6’4” 220 lbs but light on his feet and a powerful swing. He also has a strong arm and still learning the angles of Right Field but he is almost a finished product there.
I watched Polanco line up during the National Anthem with his head bowed as he did a prayer throughout the song. When it was time to play, he eagerly grabbed his helmet and was ready to go take his next steps towards the call-up. When Polanco is on deck, he doesn’t do a lot of “Phantom swings” with each pitch like you see with a lot of players. He stretches, takes some practice swings and it’s like he is getting into his zone.
Finally, it’s his first plate appearance and his legs aren’t too wide and he has a little bit of a motion in his batting stance. I notice right away he’s got a very good eye for the ball as he took several pitches that were close. He works the count before hitting a little bloop single to centerfield. His next at bat, Polanco grounds out to 2nd base but made it sort of close which shows he hustles all the time. The 3rd at bat wowed the crowd with a rip down to the right field wall, just missing a home run by a foot for a double. The final at bat of the day saw another rifling shot to right-center field for another double.
Polanco finished the day 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, 1 run scored and 1 RBI. The next game, part of a double-header saw a little different side of this mammoth. He was 0 for 5 with 2 K’s but the most telling thing to me was the clear frustration that mounted as he flew out in his final at bat. I mention this because when watching the Pirates, it’s rare when a player strikes out or flies out lazily that they show much emotion. In this game, Polanco flying out to end up 0 for 5, he slammed his bat into the ground and ran to 1st. He was almost to 2nd base when the centerfielder caught the ball.
The good news is, there was a 2nd game to the double-header and while Polanco flew out in the 1st inning, he had a solid opposite field single in the 3rd and then ripped another huge double in the 6th to finish 2 for 3 with a double and run scored. There is one more game locally tonight but I’m sitting that one out as I’ll keep up via gameday to see how Polanco fares.
THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES
The Pirates finished the road trip 2-4 against the Brewers and Yankees but I feel it should be have been reversed 4-2 or maybe even 3-3 as most of the problems the Pirates have this season showed itself on this trip. First, the pitching was pretty up and down most of the trip. Gerrit Cole looked OK in the first game, pitching 5 2/3 innings, giving up 3 runs but the 3 BB is troubling and that trend can’t continue. The team was 1 for 9 with RISP and they left 8 men on base.
Francisco Liriano looked solid(finally!) in game 2 @ the Brewers pitching 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and only 1 run, 1 BB and 7 K’s. He still didn’t get the win because the team could not get men on base and won after scoring 3 runs in the top of the 9th. The final game of the series was maddening as Wandy Rodriguez had a solid start(again, finally!), pitching 5 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB and 4 K. The hitting came around and gave themselves a nice 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the 9th where Mark Melancon came on for the save. Last season, this was a done deal, wrap it up and win the series. This season, Melancon couldn’t get 1 out after a single to Braun, a walk to Lucroy(4 straight balls), a walk to Reynolds to load them up and a single to Khris Davis to win the game. Should have been 2 of 3 there.
The focus then shifted to travelling to New York and take on an OK Yankees team. The Pirates were to face David Phelps, Hikoki Kuroda and Vidal Nuno, all of whom had a losing record and a high ERA. So game 1, the Pirates score 1 run. Game 2, the Pirates score 3 runs before finally breaking out and defeating the Yankees 5-3 after Cole has a solid start. Again, the Pirates should have been able to go 2 of 3 here but alas, 1 of 3 and 2 of 6 for the road trip.
The team continues a 6 game homestand tonight(Thursday) and must figure out a way to overcome some of the challenges they have. Whether it’s getting more consistent pitching from their starters, stop blowing games from the relievers, having more clutch hits from the big guns on offense and quit making all the defensive mistakes that is killing the Pirates this season.
If not, even Gregory Polanco and all that he can and will do when he finally arrives will not matter, until next season anyhow. #TheTimeIsNowBucs ß Start to use this hashtag when posting up on Twitter.
The Time Is Now!!!