Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes that Pirates president Frank Coonelly doesn’t expect the club to deviate from their current plan, even as general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell enter the final year of their respective contracts:
1. Lame-duck years will not be regarded any differently by the
Pirates than any other years, and allowing someone to enter a lame-duck
year without an extension will not be seen as a lack of faith.
2. Coonelly would prefer that those under him never go into survival
mode and attempt short-term solutions that deviate from the team’s
overall plan. By not focusing on contract terms or arbitrary lame-duck
precedents, the concept goes, those involved are less inclined to
single out any year as one in which it would be OK to abandon the plan.
3. Coonelly displays a strong, genuine and unwavering confidence in Huntington and Russell.
Tied at a league-leading 10 home runs apiece with Cody Bellinger and Khris Davis, it wasn’t long before Brewers slugger Christian Yelich set himself apart from the competition yet again. During the bottom of the first inning on Friday, the 2018 NL MVP singled out the first pitch he saw from the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling — an 86.5-m.p.h. slider just wide of the strike zone — and returned it to the second deck seats in right field for his 11th home run of 2019.
While Bellinger and Davis will undoubtedly continue to make it difficult for Yelich to claim sole honors at the top of the leaderboard, the 27-year-old outfielder has had a banner year so far. Through the first three weeks of the season, he’s batting a strong .354/.447/.823 with 15 extra-base hits, 29 RBI, and three stolen bases across 94 plate appearances. The 29 RBI (27 entering Friday’s game) he collected between March and April eclipsed Prince Fielder’s previous franchise record of 26 RBI — and there’s no telling how much higher that total will rise by the end of the month, too.
Even with the benefit of Yelich’s immense talents, however, the Brewers are just clinging to a first-place tie with the Pirates atop the NL Central. They dropped their last two games to the Cardinals and Dodgers, respectively, and will need to overturn the remainder of their series against LA to build up their division lead again. They’re currently tied 2-2 with the Dodgers in the seventh.