"If [Adam Frazier] gets enough at bats, he's going to win a batting title someday," David Freese told Robbie Incmikoski on the field moments after this one ended in a 6-3 Pirates win.
Freese's comment was relayed to Clint Hurdle as soon as the Pirates manager sat down for his postgame presser: "Sounds like I'm going to have to make sure get him enough at bats," Hurdle quipped.
After another three-hit game, Frazier's batting average has ballooned to .358 and he is quickly becoming the breakout story of this year's team. You wouldn't know it to see him in the clubhouse, though. As calm and quiet as he is in the box, he is more so in person. He isn't shy, but reserved. He goes about his daily routine and unless you're looking for him, you wouldn't even know he is around. In postgame media scrums, Frazier stands still with his hands folded, looking mostly straight ahead -- his countenance unchanging, his eyes giving away nothing. Hurdle says there "is a lot of fight in the kid," but the intensity doesn't bubble overtly to the surface. What you see and feel is an understated and tranquil type of confidence.
Freese wasn't done talking about Frazier when returned to the clubhouse.
"He's just a big league hitter. He hits the inside part of the ball. That's how you sleep at night. You look at the best players in the league, that's what they do. He's a guy that knows himself, stays within himself."
Freese said that Frazier most reminds him of former batting title winner, Bill Mueller.
"The way he sprays the ball to the left-side it's impressive. He's so simple. The way he gets that foot down. A lot of us try to do too much, but he never does. You can tell the way comes off the bat that he has some pop. He's going to mature and understand how to progress as a big league hitter, I promise you that."
Told of the compliments he was receiving from one the veterans and most respected players in the clubhouse, Frazier gave a polite smile and a response you'd expect.
"That'd be nice [to win a batting title], but there is a long ways to go for that though. I just try to do it each day and take it from there."
Ground balls and no walks
For the sixth start this season, Ivan Nova didn't walk anyone. His BB% is now a stunningly low 1.8 percent. With some solid support from his defense, the right-hander made it through 7.1 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs. He filled up the strike zone and induced ground ball after ground ball. It was another steady, high quality start from the Pirates one veteran starting pitcher.
"The two-seamer was working really good today," Nova said. "We kept throwing it and throwing it and they were swinging and hitting ground balls with it."
Nova was a model of efficiency throughout the day. He threw only 90 pitches, retired 10 hitters in three pitches or less and only faced two three-ball counts.
"I liked his outing today," Hurdle said. "I thought he pitched really, really well. He stayed in control and in charge."
Although Josh Bell didn't reach base today, he and Frazier are providing a much needed spark to an offense that will remain an area of concern all season. With Andrew McCutchen continuing to battle with a year-plus slump, and the absence of Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang, two players with only 165 games played between them are being counted on, and are delivering, some much needed firepower.
"The way Josh Bell is playing is awesome," Freese said. "It's good to see. The young guys are keeping us afloat a little bit. That's a good thing. They're studs. It's nice when you can kind of talk to them now and again and learn from them. Just because they're young doesn't mean you can learn from them. If you watch the young guys take their [at bats] it's evident."
Okay, that's it for me until August. Tomorrow morning I head up to Maine for two months. I hope to catch the Pirates on the road at some point but, if not, it'll be interesting to watch this club evolve from a distance. Until later --- enjoy the middle of the season.