Cueto did not just earn the victory; he silenced the Pirates' offense with his second three-hit complete game against them in six days.
The Pirates' offense has been nearly nonexistent over the last two weeks as they have gone 5-9 over their last 14 games. Reigning National League Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen started off the season in a slump, but last night he provided the only glimmer of hope for the Pirates' offense.
With no one on in the ninth inning, McCutchen capitalized on Cueto's only mistake, drilling an 0-1 pitch over the wall in right field for a solo home run.
After going 0-6 on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers, McCutchen saw his batting average fall to .243 on the season. Now, with five hits in his last two games, his average is back up to .288, and it looks like things are coming together for him.
McCutchen's slow start really affected the Pirates, who own a poor team batting average of .232. Without McCutchen's production, it was that much harder for the Pirates to score runs.
If he can stay hot at the plate, the Pirates should get back on their feet, but they cannot expect to excel solely based on McCutchen's production on offense.
While Pedro Alvarez has blasted six home runs already, his awful batting average of .179 wiped out many opportunities for the Pirates to plate runs.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the entire team has been struggling on offense with the exception of Ike Davis, who has five hits in his first four games with the team.
Starling Marte, who batted .280 in 2013 and was an integral part of their playoff run, is batting just .247 with a league-leading 32 strikeouts. With only 99 at-bats so far, he has struck out in just about one out of every three at-bats.
The Pirates have to at least start making more contact at the plate—even moving runners over while making outs is more productive than a wasted at bat due to a strikeout. Their 174 strikeouts as a team is tied for 11th most in the majors, while their 170 hits is tied for only 17th best.
The old baseball adage says that hitting is contagious, and if McCutchen catches fire in the near future, perhaps the Pirates will start hitting all around.
For now, however, they have a lot of work to do in the batting cages if they want to make it back to the playoffs in 2014.
*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
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