At what point does it no longer become cute and cuddly that the Pittsburgh Pirates are flying the Jolly Roger atop the National League Central? The answer to that question can probably start with the agreement that such a point occurs well after the tenth game of the season. Still, though, in an offseason that felt like a tug-of-war between the big kids on the block, the Pirates were supposed to be the quiet kid in the corner who went along with the crowd. They even seemed willing to play such a role, trading away beloved Andrew McCutchen, and hockey/heckler enthusiast Gerrit Cole. But, alas, pirates have never been ones to play by the rules.
What You Need To Know:
Tuesday afternoon was Episode 2 in the series quickly becoming known as “The Adventures of Tyler Chatwood.” Much like his first start, Chatwood was all kinds of inefficient. Unlike his first start, he paid for that inefficiency. In five innings, Chatwood threw 100 pitches, surrendering five runs on nine hits. Where Chatwood’s first start saw him creating his own jams (RE: six walks), the Pirates showcased their league-leading offense with consistent traffic set alongside significant slugging, despite Chatwood only walking one.
Ivan Nova was effective, save for two belt-high fastballs to Javier Báez that were predictably deposited into the bleachers. A two-run single by Jason Heyward in the eighth—off of the newly named Felipe Vazquez—made things slightly more interesting, but an ill-timed Báez strikeout ended the last serious threat.
While still too early to determine anything as a trend, Chatwood’s general inefficiencies have to be at least a little bit of a concern. Where his first start was plagued by walks, so his second start was plagued by hard contact. In Chatwood’s defense, even if it’s only a ten-game sample, the Pirates are currently leading the league in several offensive categories. Prior to today’s game, they were first in average (.283), first in on-base percentage (.359), third in slugging (.455), first in K% (15.0%), and third in BABIP (.316). Whether or not those numbers will last for the totality of the season remains to be seen, but Chatwood isn’t the first pitcher humbled by the Pirates’ early offensive surge.
Corey Dickerson, after going 3-for-5, now has a career line of .400/.441/.545 against the Cubs over 16 games. Go back to Tampa, please.
Francisco Cervelli’s three-run home run off of Mike Montgomery was the first time this season the Cubs’ bullpen has surrendered more than one run in a game. I don’t know about the rest of you, but whenever Mike Montgomery gives up anything, I find myself defaulting to a 2016 glass-half-full mentality: “Better Francisco Cervelli than Michael Martinez, right?”
Top WPA Play: Báez’s home run in the bottom of the second gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead —a lead that they promptly squandered the following inning when the Pirates put Tyler Chatwood in front of a firing squad (.109).
Bottom WPA Play: Josh Bell’s RBI double, which was part of the Pirates’ three-run third inning. By the end of the inning, the Pirates led 4-2; Ivan Nova took care of the rest (-.161).
Jon Lester will make his third start as the Cubs try to even the series against the upstart Pirates, while being thankful Jameson Taillon isn’t pitching.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports