There’s been a lot of talk, and some managerial action, about not playing Neil Walker against left-handed pitching. Walker has a slowly climbing batting average against lefties, which today is at .221. But he is without and extra-base hit in 68 at bats.
Almost nothing has been said about not playing Pedro Alvarez against left-handed pitching. The case can be made that he, too, should sit at least against some lefties.
This is Alvarez’s batting line against lefties this season: .196/.268/.314 -- .582. He is striking out 45 percent of the time when facing a lefty and hitting a home run every 34 at bats. What’s concerning about those numbers is they are all down from last year.
His batting line vs. lefties last year: .207.270/.379 -- .649. He struck out 41 percent of the time and homered every 23 at bats.
The only player on the roster that might give Alvarez a night off is the light-hitting Josh Harrison, who in 22 at bats vs. lefties this season is hitting .409 with an 1.182 OPS. Prior to this season, in 148 at bats vs. lefties those numbers were .209 and .558.
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Roster move: Ryan Reid, who had a 1.64 ERA in seven games, 11 innings, earlier in the season, has been added to the roster as the Pirates continue to go with 13 pitchers and a short bench. Kris Johnson, as expected, was optioned back to Indianapolis. Johnson certainly earned a Sept. 1 callup, if not something sooner, with his performance Sunday.
Bye-bye JMac: James McDonald started and lasted 2/3 of an inning today for the Pirates entry in the Gulf Coast League game. He allowed two runs on two hits and a walk. Most of the players on the other team, the Yankees, were teenagers. After scoring two against McDonald, the Yankees did not score another run the remainder of the nine-inning game.
Whiff-King Jr.: Much is made about the strikeout total of Alvarez, whose 150 leads the National League. Almost nothing is made about the strikeout total of Starling Marte, which at 125 is fifth in the league. Not only does Marte not produce the home runs that Alvarez does but he bats in a position where getting on base is a primary function. He has 30 more strikeouts than any NL leadoff hitter, although, in fairness, he has the most at bats. Norichika Aoki, second to Marte in ABs (410 to 477) has struck out only 26 times.
About the Padres: The Padres are 56-68 overall and 33-29 at home. They are in fourth place in the NL West, 16 1/2 games out of first. They’ve won their past two games, against the Mets, but lost the three before that. They are ninth in runs scored, right in front of the Pirates, and 13th in OPS. Their pitching staff is 13th in ERA and BAA and 14th in WHIP. They do not have a player with more than 50 RBIs.
In good hands: The Pirates are in need of a stop and they send their stopper to the mound tonight. Francisco Liriano, 13-5, 2.68 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, has stopped losing streaks of two, three and four games this season. The current streak is two but the Pirates are in big-time need of a win, having lost seven of their past nine. Liriano bounced back from a terrible -- 2 1/3 innings, 12 hits, 10 runs -- performance on Aug. 9 by pitching a superb complete-game win over St. Louis five days later. Left-handers are batting .148 (13-for-88) with two extra-base hits against Liriano. This is the link to Liriano’s stats against San Diego hitters.
Opposing pitcher: Right-hander Andrew Cashner, 8-7, 3.87 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, is as steady as they come: In seven of his past eight starts, he has pitched five to seven innings and allowed two or three runs. This is the link to Cashner’s stats against Pirates hitters.
Pirates lineup, 10:10 p.m.game time:
1. Harrison, RF
2. Walker, 2B
3. McCutchen, CF
4. Alvarez, 3B
5. Jones, 1B
6. Mercer, SS
7. Tabata, LF
8. Sanchez, C
9. Liriano, P