As a native New Yorker, I don't get to see the Pittsburgh Pirates live very often so when the Bucs do come to town, I make an effort to catch as many games as I can.
I was fortunate enough to attend three of this weekend's four games (minus Sunday at Citi Field) as the Pirates continued their strong start to 2013 and improved to 21-16.
I came away from the weekend with a few observations about some current trends affecting the Pirates.
Good and Bad: Andrew McCutchen
On Thursday night, Andrew McCutchen looked as locked in as any player and was clearly the best player on the field.
As other Pirates struggled to find a rhythm against Dillon Gee, Cutch easily sprayed line drives all over the field, culminating with his possible go-ahead double that Juan Lagares robbed him of in the eighth inning. Regardless of the final outcome, it was clear that the Mets' caliber of pitching was no match for the Bucs' center fielder.
McCutchen didn't fare as well during the rest of the weekend, however. He appeared to be too aggressive early in counts, perhaps frustrated by his inability to put together good games against the Mets' mediocre pitching. I said on Friday that the Bucs could have scored 12-15 runs if he had been on his game.
There's clearly nothing to be too concerned about with a player of McCutchen's caliber, but it was interesting to see the difference between "Cutch" at his peak and "Cutch" off his game.
The Right Time for Liriano
Francisco Liriano may have emerged as the potential No. 3 starter that the Bucs need.
Liriano was by no means perfect Saturday in his first major league start of the season, but the talented left-hander kept the Mets' lineup off balance throughout his outing. Liriano's ability to change speeds and his arsenal of breaking pitches completely overwhelmed the inexperienced Mets.
It is important to note that Liriano was facing a very weak lineup and his control left something to be desired at times, but the Pirates would sorely benefit from adding another solid starting pitcher right now. Liriano is certainly capable of being that guy.
Big Performances From Two More Hitters
The Pirates' offense has rounded into form of late with big weekends from Jose Tabata and Jordy Mercer only further increasing the unit's overall potential.
Tabata remains a bit of a mystery, but he looked excellent against the Mets. Saturday's game may very well have been one of the best of his career.
Despite his usual mistakes on the basepaths, Tabata was engaged all weekend and hit the ball hard almost every time up. His home run Saturday was absolutely crushed—a line drive that never stopped carrying.
Mercer obviously had a big statistical weekend, but even after divorcing ourselves from the statistics and small sample sizes, it seems pretty clear that he can help this team. Mercer is a big guy who can hit the ball hard and for power, plus he looked very solid playing second base. The Pirates simply do not have many middle-infield options with his hitting ability.
Tabata and Mercer both have their flaws, but both can help this Pittsburgh team going forward. Tabata should platoon with Travis Snider in right field while Mercer should see his fair share of at-bats even after Neil Walker returns.
The Pirates would benefit greatly from having deeper lineups and Tabata and Mecer are both capable of contributing to the cause.