Clint Barmes was the Pirates’ primary shortstop this season, but after going 0-for-2 with an error against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS manager Clint Hurdle has decided to bench him for Game 2.
Jordy Mercer will start at shortstop, which is definitely an offense-for-defense swap. Mercer hit .285 with eight homers and a .772 OPS in 365 plate appearances this season while seeing action at shortstop and second base. Barmes, meanwhile, hit just .211 with a .558 OPS and was more or less just as bad for the Pirates last year too.
Meanwhile, just two days ago Hurdle talked about the importance of sticking with Barmes despite his lack of offensive production, telling Tom Singer of MLB.com:
For us older men, we always talked about the strength of the ball club being up the middle with your catcher, your second baseman, your shortstop and your center fielder. He’s given us that opportunity to be stronger. … Barmes has been an impact defender for us. Those that have watched our club throughout the season, there’s games when he makes plays that nobody else we have can make.
And one game later, Hurdle has benched Barmes.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.