Coming into Pittsburgh, the Giants are an even 19-19 and they’ve played 5-5 over their last ten games. See? If I draw the endpoints at the right place, the Giants look fine.
Never mind they’re on a four-game losing streak wherein they’ve been outscored 32-8 and they’ve struck out fifty-five times. Never mind they have a run differential of -23. That was all against Philadelphia and that series is over. They’re playing the Pirates now, who are bad. At least they were supposed to be bad. They’re bad, right?
Out of Pittsburgh, Philadephia, and Atlanta, I believe in Pittsburgh’s hot start the least. They’ve ridden surprising offensive starts from Francisco Cervelli, Corey Dickerson, and Colin Moran to a +18 run differential and a 21-16 record. Will any of those hitters finish the season with a wRC+ above 120? Dickerson might! ZiPs sure doesn’t think so. But the Giants won’t be facing them at the end of the season. They’re facing them now, when their lineup is hitting everything.
Their starting pitching has been competent despite them not having a clear ace after trading away Gerritt Cole. The Giants will face Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, and Ivan Nova. Of the three, Taillon is probably the best and he’s put up a 4.42 ERA and a 4.01 FIP. Fortunately for the Giants, the Pirates don’t have a lot of big strikeout starters. Then again, neither did the Phillies.
Major League Baseball is a copycat league. When one team finds a strategy that works, everyone piles on. And this even extends to gags players do on the field. When Adrián Beltré mimicked Elvis Andrus catching a pop-up, Adrián González did the same. Every team seems to do the thing where everyone ignores a player coming back to the dugout after their first home run. Derek Holland’s not the only one bringing a water jug out after walk-offs, you know?
I don’t know who for sure started these things, and I don’t really care. These things are maybe funny the first time and suffer extreme diminishing returns. Except for when Holland splashes everyone with water because omg im getting so wet haha stop it teehee its cold wee!
But there’s another gag that’s starting to get passed around MLB and that’s when former teammates who find themselves on opposite fields of a bench-clearing do something cute because they’re not really mad. They’re friends!
Here’s James Shields hugging Ian Kennedy during a brawl:
During an argument between the #Royals and #WhiteSox, James Shields was very excited to give former teammate Ian Kennedy a hug. He didn't seem to care about the argument too much. pic.twitter.com/ptQKdiAYxj— Jonathan Deutsch (@wibwJonathan) April 29, 2018
And then a week later, here’s Kris Bryant tickling Starlin Castro:
Now, you may be wondering: What the hell does this have to do with the San Francisco Giants playing three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates?
This is Andrew McCutchen’s first time back to Pittsburgh since being traded. Considering this trend of former teammates fraternizing during brawls, can you even imagine what the Pirates would do to Andrew McCutchen in the event of a brawl?
My only hope for this series is that this happens, and I have some speculations about how it will go down.
The Pirates all present their handmade gifts
After Reyes Moronta beans Colin Moran in the butt, the rest of the roster runs back into the locker room and comes out with delicately wrapped gifts, which McCutchen unwraps at home plate. Francisco Cervelli has knitted a yarn-doll likeness of McCutchen. Starling Marte has prepared three types of cookies in a jar. David Freese presents a six-pack of home-brewed beer he calls “Anbrew McCutchen.”
The Pirates all ask for piggy-back rides
Following a high spike from Derek Holland, the Pirates rush out and surround McCutchen like he’s a popular daycare teacher. They all demand piggy-back rides and McCutchen calmly tells them “one-at-a-time.” The Pirates take turns riding on McCutchen’s back as he goes around the bases. This all takes about twenty-five minutes.
The Pirates Give the Gift of Song
When Hunter Strickland yells at Starling Marte for looking at a game-tying home run, the Pirates will rush onto the field, tear away their uniforms to reveal tuxedos, and break into a men’s choir-style rendition of “Dust in the Wind.” There isn’t a dry eye in the house.
At the very least, the Giants should give George Kontos a nice butt pat.
Hitter to watch: Over the offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays DFA’d Corey Dickerson in a weird move to make room for C.J. Cron. The Rays had reasons aside from thinking he was broken. They managed to get two decent prospects back from the Pirates. But from Dickerson’s perspective, getting DFA’d certainly didn’t feel good.
With his new team, Dickerson is hitting .323/.361/.534 with a 141 wRC+. He’s one of several Pirates hitters perhaps playing above their head, but with Dickerson, there’s the added intrigue of a player getting kicked to the curb and showing his old team what they’re missing. (Keep in mind, Dickerson had a similar hot start last year before slumping in the second half.)
Bonus: Steven Brault has the most plate appearances without striking out. No other major leaguer who has accrued as many plate appearances as Brault (thirty-two) has never struck out. Also, he’s a pitcher. At the end of April, he transitioned into the bullpen, so the odds of him getting an at bat are slim. But if he does, there will be a little more drama than the average relief pitcher batting.
2nd Bonus: Andrew McCutchen needs only 6 more hits to reach 1,500 for his career. Will he do it in front of his biggest fans?
Pitcher to watch: Old friend Kyle Crick has been good since getting called up in mid-April. He’s struck out thirteen batters in 8.1 IP, though he’s walked four. The same old Kyle Crick then.
Prediction: The Giants will get back on track and take two out of three. Of course, they’re going to lose the first game just to make you squirm.