The Pirates have lost four in a row and eight out of 11 to fall two games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. And things aren’t that pretty off the field either.
According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pirates players are angry at ownership for scheduling a charity event on the team’s scheduled off-day on Thursday. The twist is that it was scheduled the morning after the team returned from their West Coast trip. Kovacevic hears that the team had a bus waiting on the tarmac after their five-hour flight from San Diego to take the players to the Pirates Charities Sporting Clays Invitational at the Seven Springs Resort owned by team chairman Bob Nutting. Yes, after getting swept by the Padres, they were forced to shoot some clay pigeons.
Players who participated in the June 11 Pirates Charities Golf Classic were excused from the shoot, but that still left 10 players who were told to go, including a few key performers, plus pretty much everyone else who’d been on the plane.
What a blast it must have been.
The bus capped the 90-minute drive at Seven Springs by the crack of dawn, way early for the morning session that began at 10:30 and ended at 1 p.m.
By the time all were bused back to PNC Park, retrieved their cars and drove home, it was about 4 p.m.
The day was as shot as those pigeons.
Of the several players with whom I spoke Thursday at PNC Park before that beat-goes-on 6-5 loss to the Brewers, every last one of them fumed over it, though none would speak on the record.
“It’s a pennant race,” one player said. “Maybe everyone around here will realize that at some point.”
Kovacevic later notes that the 10 players involved were given the choice to participate in the shoot as scheduled or have it pushed back to September 6 when they had a true off-day with no travel. They elected to get it over with on Thursday. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for millionaire athletes and charity is an important part of their duties, but this is just some really awful scheduling, regardless of whether the Pirates are contending or not.
Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.
Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.
It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.
“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”
Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.
This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.
With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.