James McDonald has been a big part of the Pirates’ surprising season, but he just hasn’t been the same pitcher since the All-Star break. He hit rock bottom last night against the Padres, giving up a season-high seven runs over just 4 1/3 innings as part of an eventual 9-8 loss.
McDonald actually cruised through the first four innings before coming unglued in the fifth. After issuing a one-out walk to Cameron Maybin, he gave up five straight hits to blow a 7-1 lead. The big blow was a game-tying three-run homer by Chase Headley.
McDonald has an ugly 8.71 ERA over six starts since the All-Star break after posting a 2.37 ERA in 17 starts during the first half of the season. The big problem? The home run ball. He has allowed eight home runs in 31 innings since the All-Star break after giving up just seven in 110 innings during the first half. He has also issued 21 walks after giving up just 31 for the entire first half.
Regression was probably inevitable for McDonald anyway, but it’s hitting him all at once and at the worst time for the Pirates. It will be interesting to see whether the Pirates continue to exercise patience or send McDonald to the bullpen while giving Kevin Correia another shot in the rotation.