Jul 22, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) is congratulated by third base coach Nick Leyva (16) after hitting a two run homer during the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Marlins will look to build on a positive end to their road trip, as they return home to face the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. To preview the series between the Marlins and Pirates, I had an email chat with Tom Smith, the editor for the Colorado Rockies Fansided Site, Rum Bunter. Not only is Rum Bunter an awesome name for a Pirates site, Tom and his staff doe a phenomenal job of covering everything surrounding the Pirates team.
Tom and I chatted about everything from Andrew McCutchen‘s MVP candidacy to if the Pirates are finally poised to break their postseason drought that has now gone on for 20 years.
Without any further ado, here is my chat with Tom:
Ehsan Kassim: Where does Andrew McCutchen rank in the NL MVP discussion and how big of a role has he played in the Pirates success this season?
Tom Smith: We think he has to be in the discussion as one of the best players in the NL in 2013. Sure, the National League sucks, but the Bucs superstar remains underrated even in Pittsburgh. It’s hard for Pirates fans to think Cutch has performed at the top of his game after watching him destroy MLB pitchers for five months last season.
EK: On the pitching side, are you surprised by the success of the Pirates pitching staff, or did you see this coming?
TS: The Pirates pitching has shocked baseball this season. It’s hard for even the fathers of the Buccos pitching staff to think their boys could pitch this well. The bargain basement staff is due some regression despite the solid FIP, but there is enough depth for the team to ride out any injuries. The team has proven it already getting starts from nearly a dozen different starters so far this season.
EK: In your opinion, was the signing of Rusell Martin the best signing of the off-season?
TS: Let’s call it a draw between Martin and Frank the Tank Liriano. Frank has been insane.
EK: Is this the season the Pirates end their playoff drought?
TS: Don’t jinx us…c’mon.
EK: Do you expect the Pirates to make any moves at the trading deadline? Do you see the Pirates and Marlins as potential trade partners?
TS: The Pirates need to make moves at the deadline. We are looking forward to see what the Bucs GM pulls off.
Based on the asking price, we could see the Bucs swinging a deal for an experienced reliever and an offensive ‘second-tier’ right-fielder
Neal Huntington has made tons of moves since he became the Bucs GM, so it’s hard to imagine him not pulling off a deal. It’s in his blood..
EK: What’s your prediction on the series?
TS: 2 of 3 will go to the Buccos.
EK: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
TS: Jeff Locke has defined the Road Warrior mentality the Pirates have shown this year. The lefty has been the surprise of the National League and to us it looks like the southpaws ability to limit hits could spell trouble for the Marlins offense. He walks too many batters, but it’s mainly due to his conviction to pitch inside which has been a key strength for him this year.
Charlie Morton has pitched better and better this season. The sinker baller will flash a mid-90’s fastball coming off a freshly repaired Tommy John right arm. Pirates fans delight in calling him #ElectricStuff and it’s very difficult not to like the Bucs chances Saturday with Ground Chuck on the mound.
Gerrit Cole has pitched well in his rookie season. We got to see him pitch his bullpen today in DC before the Nats avoid a sweep at the hands of the Pirates thanks to a Bryce Harper walk off. Cole was popping the glove but struggled finding the zone late in the bullpen. The right hander has leaned heavily on his upper 90’s heater and it should be a thrill to see the matchup on Sunday.
A big thank you to Tom for taking his timeout to talk to us. We at Marlin Maniac wish all Pirates fans the best of luck for the rest of the series. If you get a chance, do check out some of the great content over on Rum Bunter. Here are the questions I answered for Tom on RB.