Bob Smizik: With Harrison, who needs Polanco?

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As a significant segment of the fan base waits not so patiently for the arrival of Gregory Polanco and with it the end the black hole that was known as right field for the Pirates, a strange and unusual thing is happening. The Pirates right fielder is outplaying Polanco.

The great Gregory Polanco is slumping in Class AAA. The not-so-great Josh Harrison continues to thrive and surprise in MLB.

For May, Polanco is batting .304 at Indianapolis. Harrison is batting .312. Polanco has hit with more power and has a higher OPS -- .846 to .835. But considering the caliber of pitching the two are facing, those numbers also remain a clear victory for Harrison.

Now consider the past 10 games:

Polanco is 7-for 37. His batting line is .189/.262/.297 -- .559

Harrison is 11-for-40. His batting line is .275/.341/.350 -- .691

Neither player is exactly thriving of late, but Harrison is coming back from a mini-slump and has four hits in his past nine at bats. More significantly, he has been an integral part of three of the eight runs the Pirates have scored in their two straight wins over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

None of this is to suggest Harrison is better than Polanco. He’s not. It is to suggest that Polanco just might not be the Superman some Pirates fans had believed. In all likelihood, he will soon end this current slump and began to play better. And most likely Harrison’s play will return to more near his career norm.

For now, though: Who needs Polanco?

* * *

The Pirates got a huge pick-me-up last night when Francisco Liriano returned to his 2013 form in winning his first game of the season, 2-1, over the Dodgers. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed no runs and five hits, while walking two and striking out eight. It was his best performance since he pitched six shutout innings against the Cubs on opening day.

READ MORE: Game report - Liriano breaks through, nabs 1st win of season

In the sixth, Liriano gave up a leadoff double to Hanley Ramirez but then retired Matt Kemp and Scott Van Slyke. He was at 100 pitches, and manager Clint Hurdle brought in Justin Wilson to face Andre Ethier. Ethier struck out.

Tony Watson pitched a scoreless seventh. Mark Melancon gave up a run in the eighth but Jason Grilli, back in his closer’s role, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.

A walk to Clint Barmes and singles by Harrison and Neil Walker produced the first Pirates run in the third. Ike Davis homered in the fourth for the second.


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