TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Back-to-back walk-off wins in dramatic fashion against what’s becoming their top rivals, the Pirates weekend wins were something out of a Hollywood Script.
You had not only the walk-off magic in back-to-back nights, but the A.J. Burnett home run, Francisco Liriano hitting a two-run single against a lefty, just things happen that shouldn’t happen and normally don’t.
The Pirates now go into the All-Star break with a 52-35 record, third best in the Majors and third best run differential at +64. Since starting the season 18-22, the Pirates are 35-13 since.
A special team, team of destiny? That’s the type of talk going around right now but it’s a bit overboard, at least the team of destiny talk for now.
What this four game series meant for the short-term, though, was a lot of things. There’s a ton of baseball left but at somepoint the Pirates had to start chipping away at the Cardinals division lead and that was the real importance of taking three of four from the Cardinals, and three straight with the Big Three on the mound and neither of them had dominant outing. You don’t want to keep playing catch up for months and months and it become September 1st and be six games out with a month to go. That may end up the case seven weeks from now but the Pirates are putting themselves in position to control their destiny a bit by closing the gap significantly over the last week.
I don’t believe this series win gives the Pirates any psychological edge over the Cardinals moving forward as what happened here will be long gone from the Cardinals minds when these teams get together again down the stretch as it easily could have been Cardinals taking three out of four but what the Pirates are providing is that they’re a legitimate World Series contender and with the Cardinals injuries, if this series does anything, I think it maybe gets St. Louis brass a bit more aggressive to add a big piece.
2. John Kruk brought up an interesting thought during the third inning of Sunday night’s game. What about Jung Ho Kang to first base for when Josh Harrison returns to the lineup? It’s unlikely to be a scenario the Pirates would be willing to explore during the season but as Alvarez showed Saturday night with his gaffe in the field, he’s going to lose the Pirates a crucial game at some point down the stretch because of his poor ability in the field.
Alvarez not only has the most errors (14) by a first baseball since 2009, every advance defensive metric strongly proves he’s the worst defensive first basemen in baseball.
Hurdle again Sunday came out in support of Alvarez. “The rankings are what they are,” Hurdle said. “The only way he’s going to get better is with the attitude and the effort and the work.”
3. Buster Olney called the Los Angeles Dodgers the favorites to acquire Johnny Cueto for when the Reds decide to open up the sweepstakes. One rumor that was going around the ballpark this weekend is the Dodgers getting Cueto and St. Louis trading for David Price.
Don’t count out Pirates looking into Price’s availability once again, team sources contend. The Pirates looked aggressively into Price last summer, why not again where the ‘price’ will be even lower? Neal Huntington is comfortable with the Pirates roster and looking right now at outfield options, but there has been intrigue from Huntington and his co-horts to add a front line starter and Price is the one name a source says Huntington has been enamored with for two years now.
If Price potentially goes on the market at the last minute with him not expected to sign with Detroit, bet on Huntington being in a Price state of mind again with several attractive mid-tier prospects to offer and who knows maybe Charlie Morton would interest the Tigers as a center piece with the Tigers in the Wild Card mix.
4. Mike Kadar who was named the Detroit Red Wings strength and conditioning coach on Friday, was fired by the Penguins organization after being with the team since 2007. Jim Rutherford just wasn’t a fan of Kadar style/off-ice conditioning aspects , plain and simple. There’s also been whispers that some in the front office felt Kadar was too close to the players that interfered with Kadar providing a proper professional opinion to coaches for players who were rehabbing injuries. It was more than one thing.
5. While the Penguins are prioritizing tying to become the Tampa Bay Lightning and having four scoring lines, one need the Penguins front office was on the hunt for from day 1 of the off-season was adding another Patric Hornqvist type player to the top-9.
Have the Penguins found that player on the cheap?
They believe they might have in Sergei Plotnikov.
The North-South game Plotnikov plays with and his ability in the corners and to be a net-front presence, has some in the organization feeling he has a chance to be Patric Hornqvist 2.0 with a little bit less production.
We’ll find out soon enough.
Plotnikov’s escape clause in his contract were he to be sent to the minors will give him a long look in the NHL this season.