I don’t believe there is such a thing as a must win game in July, but the Pirates were faced in as close to that situation as you can get on Sunday afternoon. After losing the first two games of their weekend series against the Cardinals, the Pirates found a way to win Sunday’s game against the Cardinals in extra innings. With the Pirates win and the Brewers lost, there is now a three-way tie atop the National League Central as the Pirates enter into their toughest week of the season. With the series opener on national television against the Braves tonight (7 p.m. on ESPN), the Pirates are looking to show the nation that they aren’t just a Cinderella team and are here to stay.
With a four game series against the Braves, followed by a three game set against the Phillies, the Pirates are really counting on the bats to come around. By looking at their lineup from yesterday, people outside of Pittsburgh, even people from Pittsburgh, probably couldn’t tell you who half of the guys on the field were. Going into a week where they face Tim Hudson (9-6, 3.39 ERA), Tommy Hanson (11-5, 3.06 ERA), Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 2.44 ERA), Derek Lowe (6-8, 4.49 ERA), Roy Halladay (12-4, 2.55 ERA), Cliff Lee (9-6, 2.83 ERA) and Vance Worley (6-1, 2.02 ERA), the Pirates brass knew something had to change to add some pop in the lineup.
For the past few weeks, fans have been impatiently waiting the return of slugging third baseman Pedro Alvarez from Triple-A Indianapolis where he has been on fire. General manager Neal Huntington said that Alvarez’s numbers were “misleading and a few hits didn’t get out of the infield” left the fans wondering when the slugger would return to Pittsburgh. Alvarez is batting .365, with 3 Home Runs and 13 RBI in 18 games in Indy. With his past success in limited at-bats against Atlanta’s pitchers last season (1-3 2B against both Hudson and Hanson and 2-3 against Lowe), the Pirates announced this morning that Alvarez has been added to the active roster.
In what was expected to be Alvarez’s breakout season, he struggled through his first 36 games, hitting only .208 with 2 Home Runs and 10 RBI. Some fans have called him a bust and overreacted, while others more sensibly aren’t giving up on the kid yet. Alvarez, 24-years old, has less than a full-year of Major League experience and made a name for himself in the second half of last season hitting .270 with 13 Home Runs and 53 RBI. The potential is there and perhaps spending time in Triple-A after his disabled list stint motivated him and allowed him to be fully focused and ready to return to the Pirates lineup. Despite only 2 Home Runs, Alvarez still adds that power threat to the lineup that the team desperately needs.
While this is great for the Pirates, it also means that the hot-hitting rookie Alex Presley was placed on the 15-day DL. With the news of Presley’s injury and the setback that Jose Tabata has had, it looks like the Pirates may go after an outfielder before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Josh Willingham or Ryan Ludwick could both be possibilities.
Depending on how Pirates do this week will depend on the type of moves they make at the deadline. If Alvarez turns into the player we saw glimpses of last year, it could be just enough support to carry the Pirates into October.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com