It took 14 games and 50 trips to the plate, but first baseman Justin Morneau finally got his first RBI as a member of the Pirates this afternoon. His one-out, eighth-inning single to left drove in Andrew McCutchen to put the Buccos up 3-2. Morneau has yet to homer with his new club, and he even entered the afternoon slugging just .310 since switching jerseys.
The Pirates went up 2-0 early, scoring once in the first on a wild pitch, and once again in the fourth on a solo home run by Tony Sanchez. Starter Francisco Liriano held the Cubs scoreless through sixth and came out for the seventh, but quickly ran into trouble. Following Junior Lake’s lead-off single, Welington Castillo drove a two-run home run to left to tie the game. Fortunately for the Pirates, Morneau was able to play the role of hero. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth to notch his 16th save of the season, lowering his ERA to 1.07 in the process.
The Cardinals also won, 12-2 over the Mariners, so the Pirates remain tied in first place atop the NL Central at 87-62.
Phil Hughes was officially designated for assignment by the Twins on Tuesday, the culmination of multiple injury-plagued seasons and poor performance.
Things couldn’t have started out much better for Hughes in Minnesota. The former Yankees hurler joined the Twins on a three-year, $24 million contract in December of 2013 and reeled off a 3.52 ERA over 32 starts during his first season with the club. He set the MLB record (which still stands, by the way) for single season strikeout-to-walk ratio and even received some downballot Cy Young Award consideration. The big year resulted in the two sides ripping up their previous agreement with a new five-year, $58 million deal, but it was all downhill after that.
Hughes took a step back with a 4.40 ERA in 2015 and struggled with a 5.95 ERA over 11 starts and one relief appearance in 2016 before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He wasn’t any better upon his return last year, putting up a 5.87 ERA in nine starts and five relief appearances. Hughes missed time with a biceps issue and required a thoracic outlet revision surgery in August. He began this year on the disabled list with an oblique injury, only to put up a 6.75 ERA over two starts and five relief appearances before the Twins decided to turn the page this week.
Hughes is still owed the remainder of his $13.2 million salary for this year and another $13.2 million next year. The deal didn’t work out as anyone would have hoped, but unfortunately this is another case of health just not cooperating.