MANAGEMENT HAS SIGHTS ON DEEP RUN IN OCTOBER
Photo: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates (79-56) moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central with a 7-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals (78-57) on Saturday night. A.J. Burnett (7-9, 3.09 ERA) went seven strong innings, allowing four hits and one run, and Russell Martin (.243 – 13 HR – 51 RBI) fueled a five run 3rd inning with a three-run homer to center for his 13th home run of the season.
Neil Walker (.262 – 9 HR – 41 RBI) had three hits and Marlon Byrd (.286 – 22 HR – 75 RBI), Jose Tabata (.272 – 4 HR – 21 RBI) each had two hits in the win.
The Pirates are the talk of the town as they should be and the for the first time in 20 years, fans are seeing a management team and ownership group run a baseball team how an organization at the MLB level is suppose to be ran.
Neal Huntington’s moves over the last week acquiring Marlon Byrd, John Buck and now Justin Morneau has put the Pirates in position for a potential deep run in October. Management made these moves not to win the wildcard and take their chances in the play in game. The addition of Morneau to go with the Byrd acquisition was made with the mindset of the Pirates being in a better position to win the division and go deep into the playoffs and as Huntington said yesterday, “if not win it all”.
“We felt that this move gives us a better chance to play in October, gives us a better chance to win the division, and gives us a better chance to advance deep into October if not win it all,” Huntington said.
Buzz among evaluators is that the Morneau acquisition should put the Pirates over the top in the NL Central. Quite a few scouts love the fit at PNC Park and Morneau’s potent bat against right handed pitching (.281/.343/.488) upgrades the Pirates significantly from Garrett Jones and Morneau also makes the Pirates a better team defensively.
“Everybody knows we got better with the addition of Justin,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He’s an ex-MVP. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s going to give you a productive at-bat and he lengthens the middle of the order.”
Morneau’s 10 home runs since the All-Star break are tied for 4th in the Majors. He hit 9 home runs in the month of August.
“Our guys have seen a small mechanical adjustment, and we’ve seen tangible reasons for why he’s hit nine home runs in the month of August,” Huntington said of Morneau. “We’ve got some confidence he’ll be able to continue that going forward, especially as he gets out here to the Clemente Wall.”
The Pirates now on any given day can run out a 3-6 batting order with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Marlon Byrd, and Justin Morneau. That’s a pretty strong group through the middle of the order and the Pirates are not married to Alvarez as the No. 4 hitter if he were to go through a slump. Morneau and Byrd have both hit very well this season from the cleanup spot.
While the Pirates are much stronger 1-through-8 in the batting order, the bench has improved greatly when this group is healthy.
“It adds to our depth, and it gives Clint [Hurdle] a lot of options,” Huntington said. “He can pick match-ups.”
What’s intriguing is that the roster is only going to get stronger as Jason Grilli is set to rejoin the team late next week and the hope remains that Starling Marte gets healthy before the post-season. Wandy Rodriguez would be a bonus at this point.