Tennessee had a big inning, Daytona posted a shutout, and Boise snapped its lengthy losing streak Wednesday. On the other side of the ledger, Kane County surrendered a lead late, while Iowa and Mesa had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Tennessee Smokies (5-2)
1st Place (+1.0)
Tennessee scored three in the sixth inning to jump ahead of host Jackson, winning by a final score of 4-2.
- RHP Matt Loosen picked up the win, giving up an earned run over six innings and striking out five.
- Tennessee’s nine hits were spread out over eight hitters, with DH Christian Villanueva (.357) recording the lone multihit effort. He went 2-for-4 and has five hits in the last two nights.
- LF Anthony Giansanti (.248) blasted his second homer of the season to add an insurance run with two outs in the ninth.
- LHP Jeff Lorick (5.40) allowed one earned run in two innings to earn his eighth hold.
- RHP Frank Batista (1.23) completed the ninth, recording all three outs for his first save.
Daytona Cubs (5-2)
T-1st Place (+1.0)
Daytona blanked the visiting Blue Jays, 7-0, backing a solid outing from RHP Jose Rosario with three home runs.
- Rosario pitched six strong innings, giving up no earned runs and fanning four to earn the win.
- DH Dan Vogelbach (.271) finished 3-for-4 with two runs, a double, a homer and two RBI. He is hitting .353 with six doubles and four homers in 68 at-bats at DH (compared to .242 with 12 doubles and three homers in 194 at-bats at first base).
- 1B Rock Shoulders (.215) and C Chadd Krist (.212) hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.289) recorded his 12th multihit game of the season, going 2-for-4 with two runs.
Kane County Cougars (4-2)
3rd Place (-1.0)
Kane County surrendered a one-run lead in the sixth to fall 3-2 to visiting Wisconsin.
- RHP Tyler Skulina gave up one earned run, striking out five over five innings.
- C Kyle Schwarber (.421) went 2-for-4 with his second home run in a Cougars uniform and his first stolen base at the professional level.
- CF Jacob Hannemann (.251) finished 1-for-3 with a run and two stolen bases (23). He has posted back-to-back games with multiple stolen bases for the first time in his career.
- RHP Zak Hermans (2-2, 5.17) recorded just one out, allowing two runs (one earned) and recording both his first hold and second loss of the season.
- RHP Corbin Hoffner relieved Hermans and suffered his third blown save, allowing two inherited runners to score in the sixth but giving up no more runs in 2.2 innings.
Boise Hawks (5-8)
4th Place (-3.0)
Boise snapped a seven-game skid with an 8-4 victory over Spokane, their first road victory of the season.
- RF Jeffrey Baez (.176) led off the game with his second homer, finishing the day 1-for-5 with a run and two RBI (8).
- DH Kevin Brown (.320) added a two-run shot and a single in five tries.
- 1B Mark Malave (.333) has hit in five straight games, singling twice on the day and knocking in one (2).
- LHP Tyler Ihrig’s quality start was Boise’s first in 13 games this season. He leads the team with 18.0 innings pitched.
Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rondon (left to right) have all been big contributors this season for the Nationals. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Nearly everyone picked the Nationals to run away with the NL East in 2014, but it has been a tightly bunched division in the early going, with the Nats just a game up on Atlanta as Thursday’s play began. Washington’s offense has been solid, and their pitching is about as good as it gets in the National League. Unfortunately, one of the bigger stories for the team thus far has been new manager Matt Williams calling out Bryce Harper for his apparent lack of hustle on an early-season ground out. Harper, who is known for his all-out, but often reckless effort, took the criticism in stride. Shortly thereafter, he hurt his thumb stretching a double into a triple, and he has missed a large portion of the season. He is due to return soon, though he’ll still miss the Cubs series.
(2nd in NL, 3.5 RA/G)
The Nats have the makings of a dominating rotation, but the arms didn’t quite perform to expectations in the early going. Former No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg is getting plenty of strikeouts and isn’t walking many, but he’s been very unlucky, with a ridiculous .356 BABIP resulting in a 3.70 ERA. University of Illinois product and Friday’s starter Tanner Roark is having a solid season (7-4, 2.79 ERA), while Saturday’s Game 1 starter Gio Gonzalez hasn’t yet lived up to his career numbers. Offseason acquisition and Thursday’s starter Doug Fister has been the addition everyone expected after coming back from injury in early May. Since his return, he has posted a 6-2 record with a 2.65 ERA. The bullpen is led by closer Rafael Soriano, who has converted 18 of 20 saves this season. Blake Treinen will start Game 2 of the doubleheader Saturday night.
(8th IN NL, 4.0 RS/G)
Harper’s loss was costly, especially considering no one has really stepped up in his absence. Veterans Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth have been strong, while Denard Span is bouncing back nicely after a rough 2013 season. His return has allowed the Nats to keep the offense clicking, even after losing Ryan Zimmerman for several weeks to a thumb injury. Danny Espinosa has stepped into a full-time role at second base, and the hot-hitting Anthony Rendon has moved back to his college position at third. The now healthy Zimmerman has looked solid since his move to the outfield, but it will be interesting to see what the Nats do with him once Harper comes off the DL.
The Cubs came to terms with catcher Mark Zagunis, the organization’s third-round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Zagunis batted .330 with two homers, 10 doubles and 39 RBI in 53 games in his junior season at Virginia Tech. He posted a .426 on-base percentage, tallying 32 walks and swiping 16 bases. He was an All-ACC second-teamer for the second time in his career and was a semifinalist for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award.
In his time with the Hokies, Zagunis was a .338 hitter and had a .979 fielding percentage while playing primarily behind the plate. He stole 52 bases, becoming just the second player from Virginia Tech to record 50-plus stolen bases in a career since the school joined the ACC.
With this signing, the Cubs have inked 21 of their first 22 picks, with only sixth-rounder Dylan Cease still without a deal.
It was a solid day for the Cubs minor league sides, as they went a combined 5-1 Tuesday. Boise was the only squad unable to add a win to the victory column. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (40-36)
T-2nd Place (-1.0)
Kris Bryant hit a go-ahead homer for the third-straight game, as Iowa beat visiting Albuquerque, 6-2.
- Bryant (.238) is 5-for-21 with five home runs in six games since joining Iowa, including four homers in the last three games. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk, a run and three RBI (9). Between his time in Tennessee and now Iowa, Bryant has homered once every 9.96 at-bats this season (27 HR, 269 AB)
- Bryant and SS Javier Baez (1-for-2, 2 BB, RBI) were named to the All-Star Futures Game at Minnesota’s Target Field on July 13.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.290, 19 2B, 33 RBI) and LF Josh Vitters (.238, 9 2B, 25 RBI) had two hits apiece, including a double and an RBI each. Alcantara has five multihit efforts in his last six games, going 10-for-24 (.417) with five runs, three doubles, a triple and four stolen bases over the stretch.
- LHP Tsuyoshi Wada fanned 10 for the second time this season, earning the win with his 10th quality start of the campaign.
Tennessee Smokies (4-2)
1st Place (+0.5)
Tennessee moved into sole possession of first place with a rain-shortened, 6-2, win at Jackson.
- RHP Dae-Eun Rhee gave up one earned run over 5.2 innings, striking out three for the win.
- 3B Christian Villanueva (.333) went 3-for-4 with a run, three doubles (4) and two RBI (6). It was his first game this season with three extra-base hits.
- DH Stephen Bruno (.298) went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and his 23rd RBI. Each of the Smokies outfielders—CF Jae-Hoon Ha (.202, 17 RBI), RF Rubi Silva (.252, 36 RBI) and LF Anthony Giansanti (.246, 8 RBI)—went 1-for-4 with an RBI.
- RHP Lendy Castillo (3.10) earned the save (1), striking out the only batter he faced to end the game.
Daytona Cubs (4-2)
T-1st Place (–)
After Dunedin tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the eighth, CF Albert Almora gave Daytona the lead in the bottom of the frame with a solo homer. The Cubs won, 6-5.
- Almora (.254) finished 3-for-5 with two singles and the solo shot, his third of the season.
- RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.277), LF Bijan Rademacher (.287) and 1B Rock Shoulders (.214) had two hits each as part of a 13-hit Cubs attack. Eight out of nine D-Cubs hitters had at least one hit.
- LHP Andrew McKirahan (2-1, 1.11) earned his second relief victory of the season.
Kane County Cougars (4-1)
T-1st Place (–)
The Cougars scored six runs in the first three innings, topping the visiting Timber Rattlers, 9-3.
- CF Jacob Hannemann (.250) finished 3-for-4 with two runs, a walk, his team-leading fifth triple, two RBI (31) and two stolen bases (21).
- SS Carlos Penalver (.244), 1B Jacob Rogers (.258) and RF Trey Martin (.235) added two singles apiece.
- DH Yasiel Balaguert (.238, 13 2B), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.125, 2 2B) and LF Kyle Schwarber (.400, 2 2B) each tallied a double.
- Martin set a Cougars record with five stolen bases, surpassing Michael Richard who stole four bags in a game in 2008.
- RHP Michael Wagner (3.33) earned his third hold with three scoreless frames.
Boise Hawks (4-8)
4th Place (-3.0)
Boise lost its seventh-straight game on the road, falling 7-3 at Spokane. The Hawks have been outscored 50-27 over the seven-game skid, after outscoring their opponents 40-23 in their first five games (4-1).
- 3B Jesse Hodges (.143) went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI on his first homer, a two-run shot in the seventh inning.
- SS Varonex Cuevas (.115) finished 1-for-3 with a run and his first double of the season.
- RF Jeffrey Baez (.174) tallied one hit in four tries, recorded his sixth RBI and swiped his seventh base, good for third in the league.
Mesa Cubs (3-1)
1st Place (+1.0)
Mesa earned their third win over the visiting Angels with a 4-2 victory at home.
- RHP Luis Hernandez pitched five scoreless innings, striking out two to get the win.
- SS Gleyber Torres (.333) and C Tyler Alamo (.385) ripped two singles each, while CF Charcer Burks (.556) and RF Shamil Ubiera (.222) both doubled once in three at-bats.
- After five scoreless frames from Hernandez, RHPs Brad Markey (9.00) and Jose Arias (0.00) each tossed a scoreless inning for their first holds.
- RHP Pedro Araujo (4.50) followed with one earned run in two frames to earn his first save.
- The Cubs have scored 37 runs in their first four games (9, 15, 9, 4).
Only Iowa and Mesa picked up victories Monday, with Tennessee, Daytona and Boise all on the losing end of the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Kane County had a scheduled off-day and will pick up the action Tuesday night. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (39-36)
3rd Place (-2.0)
3B Kris Bryant hit his third homer in two nights as the I-Cubs topped the visiting Isotopes, 4-3, for their second consecutive one-run win. Iowa is 11-8 in one-run games on the season.
- RHP Dallas Beeler earned the win, pitching six innings, giving up three earned runs and striking out two.
- Bryant (.222) is 4-for-18 with four home runs in five games since joining Iowa. He finished 1-for-2 with two walks, a run, the solo shot and one RBI (6). Between his time in Tennessee and now Iowa, Bryant has homered once every 10.23 at-bats this season (26 HR, 266 AB).
- 1B Chris Valaika (.304) went 1-for-3 with a walk and a double. In his last six games, he is 11-for-24 (.458) with four runs, four doubles, two homers and four RBI.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.286), SS Javier Baez (.226) and LF Matt Szczur (.244) all tallied two singles apiece. Baez also swiped his 14th bag, tied for 11th in the league.
- After Beeler’s seventh quality start in 10 tries, RHP Arodys Vizcaino (13.50, 1 H) and LHP Zac Rosscup (2.76, 6 H) each threw a scoreless frame to earn holds. RHP Blake Parker followed with a scoreless ninth to convert his league-leading 16th save.
Tennessee Smokies (3-2)
T-1st Place (–)
Tennessee fell to 3-2 in their five-game home series with Chattanooga to begin the second half of the season. The Lookouts jumped ahead with a three-run first and never looked back, winning 7-3.
- Tennessee tallied just four singles on the day, including a pinch-hit, two-out single from Taylor Davis (.286, 13 RBI) to knock in two in the seventh inning.
- After Gardner lasted just 3.2 innings, LHP Jeffry Antigua (1.80), RHP Lendy Castillo (3.15), LHP Jeff Lorick (5.45) and RHP Tony Zych (3.93) combined to allow just one earned run over 5.1 innings, fanning six and walking just one.
Daytona Cubs (3-2)
T-1st Place (–)
Daytona did not produce a run on seven hits and two walks, falling 8-0 to host Tampa.
- 3B Jordan Hankins (.286) notched Daytona’s lone extra-base hit with a third-inning double (1).
- RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.273) and CF Albert Almora (.247) each swatted two singles.
- RHP Stephen Perakslis (5.25) provided 3.1 scoreless innings of relief. Five of his last seven relief appearances have been for more than three outs. He has kept opponents scoreless in six of his last eight games.
Boise Hawks (4-7)
4th Place (-3.0)
After beginning the season 4-1, the Hawks have dropped their last six, all on the road, including yesterday’s 12-6 defeat at the hands of first-place Spokane.
- 1B Daniel Canela (.278) launched his second homer of the season to lead off the fourth. He ranks third on the team with 17 total bases.
- LF Kevin Brown (.317) went 2-for-4 with a run, a double (6), a triple (1) and two RBI (8).
- Eight of the nine Hawks hitters recorded at least one hit.
Mesa Cubs (2-1)
T-1st Place (–)
Down 6-3, Mesa took over with a five-run sixth inning to beat the host Angels, 9-6.
- CF Charcer Burks (.600) continued his tear, going 3-for-4 with two runs, two doubles (3), two RBI (6) and a stolen base (2). After three games, Burks leads the Arizona League in average, slugging percentage (.933) and OPS (1.533). He sits tied for the league lead in OBP (.600, tied with teammate Alberto Mineo), runs (7), hits (9) and doubles (3).
- Four Mesa hitters—1B Alberto Mineo (.556), DH Tyler Alamo (.333), LF Ricardo Marcano (.267) and 3B Adonis Paula (.250)—finished with two hits in five tries at the plate.
- C Tyler Pearson (.200) recorded his first hit of the season, a fourth-inning triple. He scored two runs.
- RHP Jeferson Mejia (1-0, 0.00) struck out nine over five innings of relief, allowing two unearned runs and earning his first win.
- The Cubs have scored 33 runs in their first three games (9, 15, 9).
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The Reds were bitten by the injury bug early in 2014, with Mat Latos and Aroldis Chapman missing significant time. Somehow the team has managed to tread water while awaiting their return and currently finds itself at .500. Cincinnati has one of the best pitchers and one of the best hitters in the game in Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto, respectively. They also have speedster Billy Hamilton, who has the potential to be a very exciting player if he can continue to get on base. Still, the Reds have their work cut out for them if they hope to catch the streaking Brewers and the always-excellent Cardinals in a tough NL Central division.
(7th in NL, 3.8 RA/G)*
The Reds staff has been led by an absolutely dominant Johnny Cueto, and now Cincy will have its co-ace Latos back, as he recently returned from the DL after dealing with minor offseason elbow surgery. Former reliever Alfredo Simon has stepped in admirably and is currently tied for the NL lead in wins, and Mike Leake has been solid. The biggest surprise so far may be the struggles of Homer Bailey, who received a huge contract prior to the season. Closer Chapman began the year on the shelf, but Jonathan Broxton was strong in his stead. Chapman’s return has helped solidify things as the relievers return to more appropriate roles.
(10TH IN NL, 3.9 RS/G)*
Joey Votto continues to be one of the toughest outs in baseball, having posted a .410 on-base percentage, and Devin Mesoraco has been a revelation when he’s stayed healthy and on the field. Though Jay Bruce has struggled with batting average, his ability to hit for power while taking walks has helped make him a valuable player. On the other side of the ledger, the middle infield has been an offensive black hole, with Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart both delivering sub-.700 OPSs. At the top of the order is Hamilton, who has game-changing speed, struggled to get on base early this season, but has upped his average to .273 and swiped 31 bases.
Iowa battled back behind an excellent night from Kris Bryant, Tennessee’s pitching was good enough to secure a win, Daytona rallied late, and Mesa picked up its first victory of the year. Kane County managed to split a doubleheader, while Boise continued to sputter. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (38-36)
3rd Place (-3.0)
Thanks to a two-homer night from 3B Kris Bryant, Iowa erased a 5-2 deficit to beat Albuquerque at home, 7-6.
- Following two consecutive hitless games with six strikeouts, 3B Kris Bryant (.188) launched his second and third home runs since joining Iowa. He finished with two runs and three RBI (5).
- 1B Chris Valaika (.303) went 3-for-4 with a two-run shot in the third to put Iowa on the board. In his last six games, he is 10-for-21 (.476) with four runs, three doubles, two homers and four RBI.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.283) and C Rafael Lopez (.300) added two hits apiece, including Alcantara’s league-leading 10th triple.
- RHP Armando Rivero (1-0, 0.00) pitched a perfect eighth to get the win.
- RHP Blake Parker (1.37) recorded his league-best 15th save, allowing one unearned run in the ninth.
Tennessee Smokies (3-1)
1st Place (+1.0)
Tennessee recorded its fifth shutout of 2014, blanking the visiting Lookouts, 4-0, to clinch the series win.
- RHP Eduardo Figueroa pitched five scoreless innings, striking out three.
- 3B Christian Villanueva (.313) hit a two-run shot, his first with the Smokies after tallying six with Iowa.
- With the departure of Kris Bryant to Iowa, 1B Dustin Geiger (.224) now leads the team with 10 homers. He finished 1-for-2 with a two-run round-tripper of his own.
- RHP P.J. Francescon (8-4, 3.26) earned the win in relief, spinning two scoreless innings.
- RF Rubi Silva (.256) went 1-for-3 with a run scored. He was honored as the Southern League Hitter of the Week for June 16-22, after batting .467 in four games with seven hits, one triple, two home runs and four RBI.
Daytona Cubs (3-1)
T-1st Place (–)
Daytona’s wild four-run eighth inning carried the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over host Tampa.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny gave up no earned runs over five innings, striking out four.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach (.267) broke up a no-hit bid for Tampa LHP Miguel Sulbaran in the sixth with a one-out double. His 17 two-baggers are tied for seventh in the league.
- Daytona was limited to just one hit until the eighth, when CF Zeke Devoss (.187), 2B Wes Darvill (.265) and RF Bijan Rademacher (.283) loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, respectively. Thanks to a throwing error by Tampa 1B Matt Snyder, C Willson Contreras (.270) came all the way around on a bases-loaded single, and Iowa took a 4-1 lead.
- RHP Michael Jensen (4-2, 2.67) earned his fourth win, going 2.2 innings and giving up one run.
- LHP Andrew McKirahan (1.17) followed with one earned run over 1.1 frames for his seventh save.
Kane County Cougars (3-1)
2nd Place (-1.0)
Game 1: Kane County tallied only three hits at home off Cedar Rapids pitching. The Kernels won, 5-0.
- With no run support, RHP Pierce Johnson suffered the loss in his first appearance with the Cougars. He gave up one run over four innings, striking out two.
- 2B David Bote (.221) notched the Cougars’ lone extra-base hit, his 10th double of the season.
Game 2: Kane County came back in the nightcap with a seven-inning, walk-off, 3-2 win. After 1B Jacob Rogers homered to tie it, DH Jacob Hannemann continued the heroics with a bases-loaded single.
- Rogers (.255) finished 2-for-3, including his seventh homer and 19th double of the season. Both figures lead the team.
- Hannemann’s walk-off single was the third time he reached base, having walked twice in the contest.
- RHP James Pugliese (3-0, 1.27) earned the win in relief, allowing the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh before the Cougars offense picked him up with the two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Boise Hawks (4-6)
T-3rd Place (-2.0)
Boise lost its fifth-straight contest, falling to host Spokane, 6-2.
- CF Rashad Crawford (.231) hit an RBI triple in the top of the second, becoming the second Northwest Leaguer with two triples.
- RHP Ryan McNeil (0-1, 6.75) surrendered two runs in 2.2 frames and was saddled with his first loss of the season.
Mesa Cubs (1-1)
3rd Place (-1.0)
- SS Gleyber Torres (.273) went 3-for-6 with two runs, a walk, a triple, a two-run homer (in the 11th inning), four RBI (4) and two stolen bases (2).
- DH Shamil Ubiera (.300) went 2-for-5 with a run, a walk, a double (1), a three-run homer, three RBI (4) and a stolen base (1).
- CF Charcer Burks (.545) went 4-for-6 with three runs, a double (1) and four RBI (4).
- RHP Yomar Morel (1-0, 0.00) allowed an inherited runner to score in the ninth and suffered his first blown save. He ended up earning the win with no earned runs and four strikeouts over 2.2 innings.
It’s been a long time coming, but the Smokie is back at the Friendly Confines.
The Chicago Cubs and Vienna Beef have partnered to introduce Wrigley Field Smokies, a menu item that will spark memories for fans who remember the aroma of smoked sausages being grilled at the ballpark decades ago.
Levy Restaurants will serve Wrigley Field Smokies at the newly re-branded grill cart near Aisle 108 in Wrigley Field’s main concourse beginning this homestand and continuing throughout the season. Wrigley Field Smokies will also be available in retail locations throughout the Chicago area within the next several weeks.
“We are very excited to team up with the Chicago Cubs to bring back the Smokies to Wrigley Field this year,” said Vienna Beef Chairman Jim Bodman. “For decades, fans enjoyed great-tasting smoked sausages while they took in a game at the ballpark. They’ll be able to savor that smoky flavor once again both at Wrigley Field and at home from their local supermarket.”
Actor Bill Murray once told Vine Line the sausages were a favorite of his when he would visit the stadium as a child, and he couldn’t wait for the Cubs to bring them back.
“Our fans have been asking if we’d bring smoked sausages back to Wrigley Field for years,” added Chicago Cubs Vice President of Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with Vienna Beef to bring back a piece of our history in a new and delicious way.”
Vienna Beef, the Official Hot Dog of Wrigley Field, will celebrate Hot Dog Month in July through promotions and giveaways at the ballpark.
In addition to the Wrigley Field Smokies, the Cubs and their culinary team have put a historical twist on the fan favorite with the Decade Dogs, 10 specially designed hot dogs piled high with toppings linked to the particular decade being recognized at the park.
“It’s fun. People react to it in a positive way,” Bodman said. “Vienna has been around for 130 years, baseball has been around for over 160 years, so if somebody can come up with something that’s different, that combines these two things, it obviously [gets] you thinking they’re attempting to do something outside the norm.”
Many of the upcoming decades’ hot dogs have actually been available throughout the season, including the 1960s Buffalo Wing Dog and the 1970s Pulled Pork Dog. Meanwhile, the 1980s Nacho Dog and the 1990s Bagel Dog will only be around during the ’80s- and ’90s-themed homestands. Fans searching for these unique concessions can find them next to Gate F near Section 123.
“I think when you start getting into some of the decades that represent the lives of the current fans, it’s going to be more thrilling than even the stuff of the 1930s and the 1940s,” Bodman said.
Outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco have made an impact for Pitssburgh. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
After ending 20 years of below-.500 futility and making a playoff appearance in 2013, it appeared the Pirates were a team on the rise. A poor April put the Bucs in a bit of a hole, one they’ve slowly tried to dig out of. This year, pitching has been subpar while the bats have only recently started to wake up. It’s too early to draw conclusions as there’s plenty of baseball still to be played, but the loss of A.J. Burnett from the rotation and some rough starts from key offensive contributors have led to serious struggles. Still, don’t count Pittsburgh out yet, as it does have some talented youngsters and an exciting roster.
(12TH IN NL, 4.3 RA/G)
The Pirates’ top two starters, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole, started off relatively strong, but oblique and shoulder fatigue issues, respectively, currently leave both on the DL. Cole has a below-average strikeout rate, but the former top draft pick is just scratching the surface of his immense talent. Their absence puts the burden squarely on the shoulders of veteran and Friday’s starter Charlie Morton as well as young right-handers Vance Worley and Brandon Cumpton. In 14 starts this season, Morton’s had a fine season, posting a 3.09 ERA in 87.1 innings. Saturday’s starter Worley has only pitched seven major league innings this year, but has a 1.20 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs, though Sunday’s starter Cumpton has struggled in 2014. The bullpen continues to be a strength, even with closer Jason Grilli experiencing some bumps.
(6TH IN NL, 4.1 RS/G)
Early on, defending NL MVP Andrew McCutchen has continued to look every bit the franchise-making superstar—but he was the only one providing any offense. Starling Marte regressed from his great 2013 season, and while Pedro Alvarez is again hitting for power, his low batting average and OBP drive down his value. Neil Walker was having a fine season until he had to undergo an appendectomy. There’s no timetable on his return. The Pirates have already made some significant moves to help kick-start the struggling bats, acquiring first baseman Ike Davis from the Mets and bringing up top prospect Gregory Polanco, who’s had success at the dish in a very small sample size. The hope is that Marte turns things around, Alvarez starts making more contact, and Polanco can make a big impact on the major league front.