Bob Smizik: Late arrivals powering Pirates

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Ten random thoughts on the Pirates and on their 5-2 win over the New York Mets last night.

• Gregory Polanco’s three-run homer was the big hit in the win before a sold-out PNC Park (Fireworks Night). Polanco was in the midst of the first slump of his MLB career -- 4-for-24 -- when he lashed a Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch deep into the right-field stands to give the Pirates a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning. The fact the Pirates are 10-6 since Polanco joined the team on June 10 is not a coincidence. But nor is he the sole factor, or even the leading factor, in this surge.

• The starting pitching has been the most important factor in the Pirates‘‍ recent level of play. In the 16 games the team has played since Polanco was promoted, the starters have held the opposition to two or fewer runs 11 times. The rotation has not skipped a beat despite the fact three pitchers who opened the season at Indianapolis are part of it.

• Almost everyone expected Jeff Locke to eventually make his way back from Indianapolis and most thought Brandon Cumpton would make at least token appearances with the Pirates. But few, if any, expected Vance Worley to be here by mid-June and no one expected him to pitch as he has. Worley gave up one run in seven innings last night. In three starts with the Pirates, he is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA and an 0.97 WHIP. A brilliant player acquisition by Neal Huntington.

• If it’s not one thing with most MLB teams, it’s another. And that's true with the Pirates. Not only has their starting pitching been rejuvenated, the offense is flourishing. But the bullpen is faltering. The bullpen ERA for June is 4.35, a run higher than the starters’. Tony Watson gave up his first earned run since April 27 when the Mets scored in the eighth last night.

• Moving Neil Walker into the No. 4 slot -- where the Pirates have a .645 OPS, 14th in the National League -- once he came off the disabled list made obvious sense and should eliminate what was a hole in the lineup. Polanco, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Walker might not match up with what Milwaukee and Cincinnati have, but it’s a formidable array of hitters.

• After his promising May performance -- .326/.408/.453 -- .861 -- Ike Davis has been a disappointment. He is batting .177 (11-for-62) in June with four extra-base hits -- three doubles and a home run. He continues to draw a lot of walks, 13 this month and has a very good season-long on-base percentage of .363. But he’s supposed to be a power-hitting first baseman. In 175 at-bats with the Pirates, he has 19 RBIs. The key number for Davis: a .372 slugging percentage.

• Just to show how weak that last Davis number is, with three hits last night Pedro Alvarez pushed his slugging percentage to a puny .403. Alvarez has two home runs and 10 RBIs this month -- also not very good.

• In his past nine games Josh Harrison is batting .200 (7-for-35). He needs a rest.

• In 28 games and 112 plate appearances at Indianapolis, Tony Sanchez is batting .197. He also has four errors and four passed balls. Sign Russell Martin!

According to ESPNDeportes.com, Polanco has not rejected a long-term deal with the Pirates, a fact that was widely reported early last month. The site said discussions are continuing. According to one translation of the story, Polanco said, “I have not refused anything. … We are trying. One never takes the first offer.”


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