Kovacevic: Let's see Pirates' bats do their part
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Jeff Locke looks like a kid who could use a break, huh?
In a month's time, he's gone from an All-Star sharing space atop the ERA leaders with Clayton Kershaw to … well, whatever nonprofane words you'd use to describe his latest dud Saturday at PNC Park — eight runs, 10 hits, three walks, zero command — in the Pirates' deflating 15-5 loss to the Diamondbacks.
Funny thing, though. Locke isn't the starter who concerns me most.
Rather, it's the opponent.
It's always the opponent.
Arizona's pitcher on this night, Trevor Cahill, was coming off a 45-day stint on the disabled list. His hip had been bruised by a line drive in May and, thus, his mechanics were thrown into a Mitch Williams level of chaos. In the eight starts before being shut down, he was 0-6 with a 7.91 ERA.
This guy was a punching bag waiting to happen Saturday.
Except it didn't happen.
Sure, Pedro Alvarez crushed a three-run shot over the Clemente Wall in the third to cut the deficit to 8-4. Starling Marte had a solo shot earlier that inning. But Cahill still stuck around through five, allowing nothing else.
It was hardly decisive, I know. But the broader scope is that the same fate could have — maybe should have — befallen Cahill as Locke. And that it would be welcome if such a thing occurred more than once a blue moon.
Here's a fantastic figure: The Pirates have chased the opposing starter in fewer than five innings only 13 times all season. Remove two outings cut short by rain delay, and that's down to 11.
Here's another: The Pirates are 63-17 when they score a mere three runs or more.
As in, one big bop per game, and this is a .788 ballclub!
It's not asking a ton, is it?
“We have to do more. We know that,” Jose Tabata was saying in a mostly silent clubhouse after this one. “The pitchers, maybe they get a little bit tired. We understand. They go out there every day and do such a good job. It's up to us on offense to help. We need to do it.”
He's right all around, of course.
The pitching is wearing down, and it isn't just Locke. A.J. Burnett has blown up with ugly innings his past two times out. Gerrit Cole is having his innings restricted. Charlie Morton is inconsistent. Wandy Rodriguez is anything but a sure thing in rehab. Even Francisco Liriano had the 10-run aberration last week.
In turn, a bullpen that's been badly overworked most of the summer is having to find yet another pain threshold.
If the Pirates are going to make it to the finish line as bona fide playoff material rather than backing in, the hitting needs to do its fair share. Maybe more, actually.
I'm not pointing at any one culprit, either: Tabata appeared to lose his job last week to Andrew Lambo only to continue a 13-for-32 August with two more hits Saturday. Garrett Jones, the other focal point in this regard, is at .178 for the month, but even he can't be isolated. When you see how Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Marte have picked it up at the top of the order and it still isn't enough, all hands need to get on deck.
The overall numbers don't lie: This offense ranks 24th of 30 teams in the majors with 476 runs, 20th with a .246 batting average, 19th with a .313 on-base percentage, 18th with 117 home runs and, yeah, third-worst with 1,034 strikeouts.
Where's that big surge, like the one last June when the Pirates were No. 1 in the majors with pretty much the same lineup?
For that matter, where's any trace of improvement under new hitting coach Jay Bell compared to the robustly underqualified Gregg Ritchie last season?
There isn't a ton of offensive talent on the roster, but there's more here than to sit in the bottom quadrant of baseball.
“No question, we can be doing more,” Jones said. “It's a matter of getting a bunch of guys hot and doing it together.”
Or maybe Neal Huntington should have snapped up Justin Morneau, the Twins' first baseman and 2006 American League MVP, when Morneau somehow cleared waivers last week.
Huntington still could, actually. Morneau is hardly MVP caliber anymore, but he's only 32, he's in the midst of his best month in three years — .268, six home runs, 15 RBI — and he'd certainly be an upgrade over this version of Jones. It would cost the Pirates a prospect or two, no doubt, plus paying the $4 million Morneau is due the rest of this year, but it's worth discussing at the least.
Wade Miley is Arizona's Sunday starter. He's got a 3.93 ERA for the season but 2.01 over the past eight starts.
Over/under on innings pitched?
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defensive end Tuitt shifts into high gear
- Rossi: Pirates foolish to bet on Burnett return
- Steelers notebook: No decision on surgery for rookie CB Golson
- Steelers’ Mitchell taking cautious approach about dealing with injuries
- Rain postpones Pirates-Cubs game
- Operating loss mounts at Highmark’s core hospital system
- Perfect storm rains heroin, pain pills onto Mon Valley
- PennEnvironment threatens to sue steel giant under Clean Air Act
- Inside the Steelers: Wide array of receiving options shine
- Armstrong County D.A.’s office to head jail escape probe
- Westmoreland girl tells trooper a stranger fondled her in Herminie alley