The Pittsburgh Pirates playoff hopes have been given a huge boost with the return of last season’s National League MVP, Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen has been out since Aug. 3 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, as he was hit by a pitch in the ribs in retaliation to Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt being hit by a pitch, which cost him his season. Both players suffered major injuries due to being hit by pitches, but despite having a broken rib, McCutchen is back for Pittsburgh, and ready to lead them back into the playoffs for the second straight year.
Even without their best player, the Pirates have kept themselves right in the hunt for one of the NL wild card spots. When McCutchen was out, other guys in the lineup have stepped up in August, with Starlin Marte leading the way with a .373 average and three home runs in the month. Marte hasn’t been alone in rising up when the Pirates needed him too, as Josh Harrison has also elevated his play in the month. Harrison is hitting .361 in the month, forcing his way into the everyday lineup, and with McCutchen back, this Pirates lineup is looking very good for the playoff push.
This season is turning out to be very similar to McCutchen’s 2013 season. He is currently batting .308 with 17 homeruns and 67 RBI’s. In his MVP season, he batted .317 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI’s. A strong end to August and September from McCutchen will possibly give him a chance to be a repeat MVP if the Pirates can once again reach the playoffs.
Unlike last season, the Pirates’ pitching has not been the team’s strong point. Even with McCutchen healthy, and the great hitting from others in their lineup, the pitching staff needs to do better in the final month and a half of the season. Good news for the Pirates’ pitching staff is that Gerrit Cole will be back on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, and Charlie Morton will be back hopefully around the beginning of September.
With Cole and Morton coming back off the DL to help sure up the rotation, and the return of McCutchen to the three-hole in the lineup, the Pirates have plenty of time to gain a few games on the teams ahead of them to have anticipated return of Buctober!