Share This Page

Contact could be solution for Pirates vs. Wainwright

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez swings and misses against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright during Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — A key to whether the Pirates' season continues or expires following Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday could be determined by something other than a swing, throw or catch:

It could be dependent upon pitch recognition.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is a rare player who has had success against Cardinals ace and Game 5 starter Adam Wainwright. McCutchen is a .419 career hitter (13-for-31) vs. the right-hander. He diagnosed the Pirates' issues against Wainwright in their Game 1 loss.

“I think the difference in (Game 1) was we had a lot of swings and misses out of the zone on the curveball,” McCutchen said. “If we just let those go, it could have been a different ballgame. That was a difference maker for his outing.”

Of course, that's easier said than done for the Pirates.

Wainwright is a tough matchup for any team, but especially for the Pirates, are the third worst curveball-hitting team in the majors, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

The scouting service grades Wainwright's curveball as the second best curveball in the National League.

Wainwright has excellent command of his sharp-breaking curve and often gets hitters to chase it out of the strike zone. Only A.J. Burnett struck out more batters (134) than Wainwright (115) with curveballs in the regular season.

Wainwright threw 29 curveballs in the Cardinals' Game 1 victory. The Pirates swung and missed at the pitch nine times, a poor contact rate. Five times the pitch recorded a strikeout, three times a groundout. No Pirate recorded a hit off the curve.

The Pirates have five players — Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin — who swing and miss at least 35 percent of breaking balls. Pedro Alvarez has a swinging strike rate of 49 percent against breaking pitches this season, according to Brooks Baseball.

Byrd tried to improve against breaking pitches by playing in the off-speed heavy Mexican League this offseason, but he faced few breaking balls there like Wainwright's.

“It's not a pitch to hit. It's a pitch he wants to get swings on,” Byrd said. “He's unbelievable at locating it, at throwing it short behind the plate. … You don't see spin. That's what makes him so good. The breaking ball is so tight.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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.