The Pittsburgh Pirates have not fallen off much since losing reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen to the DL with a rib injury, and the major reason for that has come from the bat, glove and feistiness of do-it-all All-Star Josh Harrison.
Harrison and the Pirates could not muster enough offense against the Detroit Tigers in a 5-2 loss at Comerica Park on Thursday. Max Scherzer struck out 14 over eight innings. He allowed just three hits and two walks in his 14th victory of the year. J.D. Martinez smacked a solo-shot in the fifth as Tigers tacked on one run in the sixth and three more in the eighth.
Still, Harrison has been one of the best stories this season, and he is playing like an MVP since August rolled around. He came into Thursday’s game with a .440 batting average this month, an outrageous .481 on-base percentage, a .535 baBIP, 10 extra-base hits and 15 runs scored. He has been the team’s leadoff hitter most of the time and is batting .333 from that spot this year. Overall, he has a 3.1 WAR, according to baseball reference, and has a plus defensive WAR while playing five different positions. He has posted a .313 average with 177 total bases and 41 extra-base hits. He has more XBH than the Seattle Mariners‘ Robinson Cano (40).
Sure it is easy to go with Los Angeles Dodgers‘ ace Clayton Kershaw as the year-long MVP — and rightfully so — but nobody has been more important to his team than Harrison has been with the Bucs in August. He is helping the Pirates stay Wild Card leaders and in contention for the National League Central title. McCutchen could return soon, and a boost like that makes them serious contenders as the regular season ends.