Almost everyone, myself included, complains about the Pirates offense and about the need to upgrade, preferably with a power bat. Some people, myself included, are suggesting Justin Morneau is just what the Pirates need. If not Morneau, Paul Konerko, also a past-his-prime slugger who’s available.
Well, maybe not. In the second half of the season, which is a relatively small sample size but nevertheless at least a trend, the Pirates offense is doing much better. They are sixth in runs per game, right behind Cincinnati. More significantly, they are third in OPS at .736, a robust team figure, and well ahead of the Reds and St. Louis, who are posting .688 and .685 numbers. The Pirates also are second in total bases and third in home runs.
Those figures are proof once again that all of us too closely examine the warts of the Pirates and fail to realize other teams have problems, too. For example, Allen Craig, a catalyst to the St. Louis offense in the first half and an MVP candidate, is batting .240 with a .643 OPS in the second half. Carlos Beltran, who had 19 homers in the first half, has one in 87 at bats in the second half.
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Tabata in right field: Playing the semi-hot hand, manager Clint Hurdle has Jose Tabata in right field today over rookie Andrew Lambo, who was recalled from Indianpolis earlier in the week. It would be nice to get a long look at Lambo, but the Pirates main -- only -- priority now is winning games. Which means, based on the way Tabata has played and on the way Lambo has played, Tabata has earned and deserves the start because he gives the team the best chance to win.
All eyes on Jeff Locke, 9-3, 2.43 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, who was a key performer in the first half for the Pirates but has shown signs of decline in the second half. Locke was pitching well above expectations so a decline was expected. It’s has not been considerable. His ERA in the second half is a more-than-respectable 3.87. What is a bit alarming is his BAA has jumped from .202 to .287. Locke’s most recent start -- 5 2/3 innings, three hits, one earned run, four walks -- was an improvement on the three before when he put 37 men on base in 16 1/3 innings.
Opposing pitcher: Right-hander Trevor Cahill, 3-10, 4.66 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, has been on the disabled list and is making his first start since June 30. In his three most recent starts, his ERA is 10.45; in his past eight it is 7.91. However, he was a solid performer early in the season and had an ERA of 2.88 at the end of May. Clint Barmes is 2-for-4 with a home run against Cahill. This is a link to Cahill’s stats against Pirates batters.
Pirates lineup, 4:05 p.m. game time:
1. Marte, LF
2. Walker, 2B
3. McCutchen, CF
4. Alvarez, 3B
5. Martin, C
6. Jones, 1B
7. Tabata, RF
8. Mercer, SS
9. Locke, P