Pittsburgh Pirates 4, St. Louis Cardinals 2: Stars And Stiffs
After their victory on Monday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates are back over .500 at 42-41.
Just when the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates looked dead in the water, the Bucs are rolling once more. After going 5-17 in their first 22 games in the month of June, the Pittsburgh Pirates have now gone 9-2 in their last 11 games. This strong play continued with a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday afternoon.
Monday afternoon’s game was a well played one by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs got strong starting pitching, good bullpen work, and timely hitting. Now here are the Pittsburgh Pirates three stars and stiffs from their 4-2 victory on Monday afternoon.
Right fielder Gregory Polanco – Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco continues to be a superstar in the making. On Monday afternoon Polanco went 2-for-5 at the plate with a pair of home runs, two runs scored, and he drove in three runs. This raised Polanco’s home run total on the season to 12, as he continues to add to his new career high.
Gregory Polanco now owns a .297/.374/.521/.896 slash line on the season to go along with a .374 wOBA and a 138 wRC+. Polanco has also stolen nine bases, his 24 doubles are tied for most in the National League, and he is third in the National League in outfield assists. All of this comes out to Polanco having a 2.8 WAR this season, which is higher than his 2.6 career WAR he had entering the season.
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In the top of the sixth inning Gregory Polanco stepped to the plate with no one out, John Jaso on second base, and the Pirates trailing 1-0. Polanco proceeded to blast a two-run home run to give the Pirates a lead they would not relinquish. Polanco also added a solo home run for insurance in the eighth inning to extend a 3-1 Pirates’ lead to 4-1. If I were a betting man, I would put money on Gregory Polanco being named to the National League All-Star team on Tuesday.
First baseman John Jaso – When Saturday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland A’s ended John Jaso was stuck in an 0-for-14 rut. The last two days Jaso has gone 4-for-6 with a walk, a double, and he’s been hit by a pitch. It is safe to say that John Jaso is back to being John JasOBP.
John Jaso drew a walk off of Cardinals’ starter Carlos Martinez to begin the game, but was erased on a Gregory Polanco double play. Jaso would then play a key role in Pirate scoring the rest of the game. First, Jaso doubled to lead off the sixth inning and he would then come around to score on a Polanco home run.
Then John Jaso would collect a run scoring single in the top of the seventh inning when he drove in Jordy Mercer. This gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead, and this hit would prove to be the game winning hit.
Relief pitcher Juan Nicasio – Originally I was going to give the nod to Jon Niese here, but it is impossible for me to leave Juan Nicasio off the stars list due to his eighth inning. Juan Nicasio took over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Pittsburgh Pirates leading 4-1 and he turned in an immaculate inning. Nicasio became the first Major League pitcher to pitch an immaculate inning since Santiago Casilla of the San Francisco Giants on May 17, 2015, and the first Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher to do it since Ross Ohlendorf in September of 2009.
For those who do not know, an immaculate inning is when a pitcher strikes out the side in order on just nine pitches. This is what Juan Nicasio did in the eighth inning when he struck out Stephen Piscotty, Jhonny Peralta, and Yadier Molina, each on just three pitches, in the bottom of the eighth inning. Most importantly, he kept the Pirate lead at 4-1.
Juan Nicasio would come out to start the ninth inning, and retired Brandon Moss before walking pinch hitter Kolten Wong and being lifted for Neftali Feliz. As many people, myself included, had expected moving Juan Nicasio to the bullpen has been a huge shot in the arm for both Nicasio and the Pirate bullpen. Since moving to the bullpen Juan Nicasio has allowed just one run on two hits, two walks, zero home runs allowed, and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
Catcher Erik Kratz – Even though Erik Kratz was able to help complete a strike him out throw him out double play to end the bottom of the first inning, he finds himself on the stiffs list for Monday’s game. The reason he is one this last, as usual when Kratz is a stiff, is due to his putrid offense.
At the plate on Sunday Erik Kratz went 0-for-4 with three strike outs, raising his strike out rate on the season to an astonishing 39.5 percent. The first of these three strike outs came with the bases loaded and no one out in the top of the fifth inning. Luckily for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans, they now have Eric Fryer so Kratz’s playing time should lessen.
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen – Another day, another 0-for for Andrew McCutchen. After going 0-for-4 on Monday afternoon, McCutchen’s wOBA has dropped to .306 this season while his wRC+ is down to 92. Needless to say, Andrew McCutchen has been a mess in 2016.
It is remarkable that the Pittsburgh Pirates have had one of the best offenses in baseball this season despite McCutchen’s struggles. It is also a testament to how deep the team’s lineup and bench are. And for that, General Manager Neal Huntington deserves a lot of credit.
Next: Examining Chad Kuhl's First Two Major League Starts
That will do it for Monday afternoon’s victory. Right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing as well as any team in the National League and have put themselves back into the postseason race. With six games left until the All-Star Break the Pittsburgh Pirates are now just three and a half games out of a postseason position.
Tomorrow night the Pittsburgh Pirates will look to take a 2-0 lead in this four game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates will send left-handed pitcher Steven Brault, who will be making his Major League debut, to the mound at 8:15pm to take on long time Pirate killer Mike Leake.