With McCutchen and Alvarez Hurt, Pittsburgh Pirates' Playoff Hopes Shrink

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen leans against the center field wall after making a catch on a fly ball by St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter in the third inning of the baseball game on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Pittsburgh. McCutchen stayed in the game until the sixth inning.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Pirates received a huge pinch-hit home run off the bat of Ike Davis Tuesday evening as the Pirates defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2.  It was arguably one of the biggest victories on the season for Pittsburgh, as the team moved to just 3.5 games behind the Cardinals for the first wild-card spot in the National League.

Unfortunately, all was not well in the clubhouse after the game, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports reported that reigning National League Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen left the game in the sixth inning due to discomfort in his left rib.   

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

McCutchen has been the main driving force for the Pirates over his six-year career.  After being crowned the MVP in 2013, McCutchen has led his team with a .307 batting average and 20 home runs.  

However, he has already spent time on the disabled list due to problems with the same rib.  

Now, Tom Singer of MLB.com reports that McCutchen is not expected to miss an extended period of time due to the recent injury and that he will be evaluated by the team doctor on Wednesday.

Still, the Pirates need McCutchen to be completely healthy in order to make a serious playoff push in September.  If he does miss more than just a couple of games, the Pirates could be doomed.  

According to FanGraphs.com, McCutchen leads the team with a WAR (wins above replacement) of 5.0.  Simply put, Pittsburgh needs him in the lineup as the catalyst that he is.  

If McCutchen's injury isn't enough to hinder any sort of playoff push, the Pirates received more bad news after the game Tuesday night.  

Singer also reported that Pedro Alvarez sprained his left foot in Tuesday's showdown with the Cardinals.  

Alvarez is currently second in both home runs (18) and runs batted in (56) for the Pirates, behind only McCutchen.  

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 25:  Pedro Alvarez #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates his solo home run with third base coach Nick Leyva during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 25, 2014 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (P
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

For an offense that has struggled at times to score runs, the Pirates cannot afford to have these two players miss an extended period of time in the final month of the regular season.  

Although they sit just 1.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants in the race for the second wild-card spot, it is hard to believe they can overcome injuries to the two leading offensive producers in their lineup.  

If McCutchen does return this week, however, the Pirates will have to find a way to weather the storm until the offense regains its health.  


Statistics Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.