It’s been a great ride for the Pirates thus far, but as of late it’s getting a little bumpy.
The Pirates have lost five of six and are 16-15 since the break. Part of this? The starting pitching has faltered a bit. James McDonald has gotten noticed for his bumpy second half, but the rotation overall has had its issues.
More troubling is the offense, which has helped carry them after a slow start from the non-McCutchen components. Since the break the team OBP is .309. The Pirates were frisky when McCutchen was carrying the team by himself, but they began to look like serious contenders only when others began to contribute. They need that overall contribution to resume to stay above water.
I’m not declaring the Pirates dead or anything. It’s merely been a bad week. But right now the Giants/Dodgers duo and the Cardinals look like threats. And given our lack of data on how this Pirates team responds when pushed, they’re definitely worth watching.
Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.
The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.
Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.
Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.
Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.
Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.