What You Need To Know: Jake Arrieta and Chad Kuhl had a staring contest through five-and-a-half innings, with neither really coming close to surrendering a run, save a brief scare for each. Finally in the sixth, Ben Zobrist went up there looking for the fastball that Kuhl had been pumping over the plate defiantly for the first five innings and broke the dam. From there Kuhl lost his nerve just a touch, John Jaso showed why you never put a Phish fan in right field, and it was pretty elementary.
Next Level: Arrieta wasn’t quite as sharp as he’s been for most of the second half, seemingly having trouble completely corralling his pitches and having to gut it out a bit. He only walked two, only struck out four, but eight of the 14 outs he got with balls in play were on the ground, which has been the new M.O. of late. He didn’t have a feel for the curve that he’s featured in other starts, and hence only threw five of them. It was basically the sinker and the slightly slower sinker which gets called a “slider.” It’s always hard to tell with Arrieta, but it was good enough to not surrender a run.
– I’ve been talking about J-Hey a lot lately, and there’s another post coming up on Friday. But Jaso did show what having a plus right-fielder can do and what having a bad one can as well. After Zobrist homered in the sixth, Schwarber walked. Rizzo then sent a ball over Schwarber’s head, and it looked like a right fielder with more wheels or better angles could have kept the ball from getting to the wall. That at least would have kept Rizzo at first, possibly Schwarber at second (though unlikely). Because of that they had to put La Stella on, loading the bases. And then Avila’s single, though hit hard, looked like he had a play on it if he had sold out for it. Maybe with one out you don’t, but already down a run and a hit meaning a second run maybe you do. If he catches it, Schwarber might still score, but everyone stays where they are otherwise. Then Heyward can’t drive in a run with a sac fly (to the opposite field…hmmmm….). Just a thought. Big difference coming out of there one or two down instead of three.
– I could watch Andrew McCutchen stare at Pedro Strop all day. Shame Pedro didn’t see it at the time, but I’m sure someone will show him.
– Kuhl averaged 96.8 mph on his fastball tonight. That’s firm.
– I’m more optimistic on the Pirates than most of their own fans in the coming years. If Kuhl and Williams can ever harness their stuff, combined with Taillon and Cole, that’s a pretty stiff rotation going forward. Sure, there are going to be problems with the lineup, especially after Cutch is gone either this winter or next, but it’s not hopeless there.
Top WPA Play: Zobrist’s homer to lead off the sixth (+.168).
Bottom WPA Play: Jaso’s homer off Uehara (boy that’s getting old) in the seventh to give the Bucs their only tally (-0.67).
Lead photo courtesy Matt Marton—USA Today Sports