Another Gem for Brandon Cumpton
What can you say about Brandon Cumpton's time with the Pirates other than that he has been terrific.
His updated career numbers read: 37.2 IP, 7.3 H/9, 1.5 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, 2.18 ERA, 0.968 WHIP.
Today, he posted a pitching line of seven innings, four hits, two runs, five strikeouts, good for a game score of 65 - a gem. It is Cumpton's third gem in six Major League starts. (Bill James defines a gem as a game score of 65-and-over.) In the franchises' history, three pitchers have started their careers with four gems in their first six career starts: Tim Wakefield, Jose DeLeon, and Cy Blanton. The last Pirates pitcher to throw three gems in his first six starts is Zach Duke. (Steve Blass also started with three.)
"I thought the entire start was strong," Clint Hurdle said. "He pitched in, he pitched in with conviction ... really strong effort from Brandon."
Cumpton will get another start
Asked if Cumpton will receive another turn in the rotation, Hurdle responded with a firm, "Yes."
"I haven't heard anything (about a future start), just trying to take it one game at a time, one day at a time," Cumpton said.
With the caveat of arbitrary endpoints, it's worth at least noticing Starling Marte's recent struggles at the plate. With today's 0-for-4, he is batting .205/.255/.205 in his last 10 games.
More disconcerting than his recent slump is the escalating strikeout rate, now 32.4 percent. He now has the seventh-highest K% among qualified position players.
Neil Walker taking advantage of SSS vs. LHP
Neil Walker's problems against left-handed pitching last year are well documented (.225/.281/.238). So far this season, he has has flipped the script. Placed in the second spot in batting order for the third game in a row, Walker went 1-for-2 with a walk against Reds starter Tony Cingrani (with Walker's one out coming on a line drive to center). Walker's batting line against lefties is now .438/.500/.625 in 16 plate appearances.
Get out of the way!
Brandon Cumpton hit three Reds in his six innings of work. Two of the hit batsmen came in the sixth, leading to both Cincinnati runs.
"There is a reason he is pitching efficiently -- he's working the ball in," Hurdle said. "We've seen it before, we've seen it in spring training, he's going to go in, he's going to go in with conviction, it's part of what he needs to do to be effective."
Cumpton's three hit batsmen continued a trend we've seen from Pirates' pitchers this year. So far, they have hit 14 batters, most in the Major Leagues. The Blue Jays are second with 12, while the Mets and Padres have only hit one batter.
Coming up short
While the Pirates certainly were not expecting a lot of offense from the shortstop position, they are certainly going to need more than they have received so far. After a 0-for-4 from Jordy Mercer today, Pirates' shortstops are hitting .178/.232/.190, .422 OPS as group (numbers do not include pinch hit plate appearances). Four NL pitching staffs - the Giants, Cardinals, Reds, Phillies - have produced higher offensive OPSes.
Gregory Polanco sooner rather than later?
Asked if he would like to see what somebody from Indianapolis could add to this offense, Hurdle said:
I think at this point in time there are other people involved in that decision making process. We continue to work through that. I talked at length with [Indianapolis manager] Dean Treanor yesterday. There are a lot of different things to look at besides numbers: quality of the competition, who you're facing, how you're facing. And I know we have some guys down there that we have some interest in, one in particular. We've also got some guys up here that have got to find some consistency and use the opportunity that is there, while it is there to get something done.
Russell Martin misses second game in a row
Martin was a surprise late scratch from yesterday's lineup and was out of the lineup again today. Hurdle said that he did not want to risk anything, describing Martin as dealing with a "lower body soreness."