St. Louis got swept by at home by the Braves over the weekend, but it certainly wasn’t the shortstop’s fault. Rafael Furcal went 7-for-11 with two walks against his original team and is a ridiculous 15-for-21 over his last five games.
The stretch has him batting .383/.447/.519 for the season. Baseball-reference’s WAR rates him the game’s second most valuable offensive player so far behind Josh Hamilton and ahead of Matt Kemp.
All of this comes from a guy who looked pretty much done last October. He followed up a weak .231/.298/.348 regular season by hitting .195/.244/.325 in 18 games during the postseason. He also struggled so much this spring that the Cardinals started hitting him at the bottom of the order in the second half of March to see if anyone else could step up and claim the leadoff spot.
No one did, of course, and now Furcal has been a terror through one-fifth of the regular season. He’s walked more than he’s struck out (15-14), and he’s seven for eight stealing bases, putting him on pace for his best season in that department since 2006. With another big game tonight, he’d become the first player this season to have multiple hits in six straight contests.
Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start against the Dodgers after four-plus innings due to tightness in his right forearm, the team announced. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow. Needless to say, though, a forearm injury is very concerning. In his four innings, Miller gave up three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts, raising his ERA to 4.09.
Miller, 26, has had a nightmare of a time since joining the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Last year, he made 20 starts and posted a 6.15 ERA. He suffered a finger injury suffered from scraping his hand on the pitcher’s mound with his follow-through, and he was also demoted to Triple-A during the summer as well.
Pirates starter Ivan Nova has been outstanding in his first three starts of the 2017 season. He yielded only five earned runs in 20 innings for a tidy 2.25 ERA. But even more impressively, Nova didn’t issue a walk in any of those starts.
That changed on Sunday afternoon against the Yankees, but in a most peculiar way. Nova had struck out the side in the first inning, notched a 1-2-3 frame in the second, and got two quick ground outs to begin the third inning, bringing up Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery for his first major league at-bat. Montgomery never batted in the minor leagues, either, so Sunday’s AB against Nova was his first since his senior year of high school in 2011. Montgomery took the first two pitches for balls, then a called strike, a ball, and another called strike to even the count. Nova came in with his sixth consecutive fastball but it missed low, walking the Yankees’ pitcher for his first free pass of the 2017 season.
Nova got out of the inning without any further issue. He wound up going seven innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, lowering his ERA to an even 2.00.