Pittsburgh Pirates 8, Atlanta Braves 5: Stars And Stiffs
The Pittsburgh Pirates improved to 20-17 overall on the season by defeating the Atlanta Braves by a score of 8-5.
By defeating the Atlanta Braves 8-5 on Monday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their second consecutive game and started their ten game home stand off on the right foot. The Bucs took control of this game early, and it was never really in any doubt. Here are the three stars and stiffs from Monday nights’ victory.
Starting pitcher Jon Niese – Left-handed pitcher Jon Niese pitched six innings tonight for the Pirates. Niese surrender two runs, via a two-run home run by Jeff Francouer, on five hits, two walks, and he struck out six. With tonight’s solid outing, Niese now has back-to-back quality starts.
The most encouraging thing from Niese tonight were all of the ground balls. Whenever Niese is going good he is getting a lot of ground balls. Tonight, 10 of the 18 outs he recorded were via the ground ball. Hopefully a sign that Niese is going to start to pitch like the pitcher he was with the New York Mets the past four seasons, and not the pitcher he has been for the Pittsburgh Pirates so far this season.
Left fielder Gregory Polanco – Gregory Polanco was shifted from his usual right field to left field tonight due to Starling Marte being away from the team for the birth of his new daughter, and this did not slow down Polanco one bit. At plate Polanco went 3-for-5, and he scored a trio of runs. Furthermore, Polanco also stole his fifth base of the season in this victory.
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After his strong game on Monday night Polanco’s slash line is up to an impressive .295/.403/.492/.895. Polanco also has a way above league average wOBA (.380) and wRC+ (139). Slowly but surely Gregory Polanco is rounding into the super star caliber player he was touted to be while coming through the Minor Leagues.
Right fielder Matt Joyce – Once again Matt Joyce gets a start, and once again Matt Joyce produces. Very quickly, Joyce is proving to be one of the best signings Neal Huntington has made during his time as Pittsburgh Pirates general manager.
On Monday night Joyce went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored. Joyce now has five home runs on the season in just 54 plate appearances. Mix in a pair of doubles, and Joyce finds himself with a .767 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.267 through the Bucs first 37 games.
Signing Matt Joyce on the eve of Spring Training has turned out to be a brilliant move by Neal Huntington. Joyce has been the leader of an extremely strong Pittsburgh Pirates bench, and has also done a great job when in the starting lineup.
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen – Just when it looked like Andrew McCutchen was turning things around, tonight happened. Cutch went 0-for-5 at the plate, including striking out with the bases loaded and no one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Needless to say, tonight was not Andrew’s best night.
Despite going 0-for-5 tonight, McCutchen is still hitting well over .300 for the month of May. So, I am far from concerned about the Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder. Plus, if there’s every a good night for him to go 0-for-5, it’s a night when the Bucs scored eight runs.
Relief pitcher Cory Luebke – Well, it may sound harsh to say it, but Cory Leubke’s Major League days are probably numbered. Luebke showed great stuff in Spring Training, made the team, struggled in four outings, and then went on the disabled list. While rehabbing at AAA, Luebke pitched very well but it did not translate to this game.
In his first outing since coming off this disabled list Luebke faced four batters, recorded just one out, and allowed three runs on three hits included a home run. After tonight’s disaster Luebke has a 14.73 ERA, 13.17 FIP, and a 9.07 xFIP in 3 2/3 innings pitched this season. A.J. Schugel should be on this team over Luebke, period.
Next: Pirates Look To Make Up Ground As Braves Come To Town
That will do it for this game. Only two stiffs, yay! Honestly, minus Luebke getting hammered in the top of the eighth inning it is hard to find anything to complain about in this one. The Pirates got solid starting pitching, the offense scored early often, and the bullpen stalwarts (Neftali Feliz, Jared Hughes, and Mark Melancon) all threw up zeroes. Time to go beat up on the Braves again tomorrow.