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Nicasio Struggles, But McCutchen Shows Positive Signs in Pirates Loss

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NEW YORK – Last night, Jeff Locke struggled early against the Mets, giving up seven earned runs in 4+ innings. Tonight, Juan Nicasio had a similar outing, giving up six earned runs in 4.1 innings. He gave up three home runs, and despite a late rally by the Pirates that made the final score 6-4, the game felt over before the fifth inning ended.

Nicasio’s three home runs came against left-handers, with Curtis Granderson leading off the game with a homer, and Neil Walker and Michael Conforto going back-to-back in the third inning. Struggles against lefties aren’t a new thing for Nicasio, who had a .411 wOBA and an .877 OPS against lefties heading into tonight.

“Lefties are hitting pretty well, but right now I’m just trying to find that pitch that works for me,” Nicasio said through translator Mike Gonzalez. “I’m feeling good, but I definitely need to just continue working harder and making that adjustment.”

The big pitches tonight to Walker and Conforto were high in the zone, and missed off-speed pitches from Nicasio. He threw a changeup that Walker hit in the seats, and a slider to Conforto. The command of his off-speed stuff has been a problem this year.

“The command on my breaking ball, that’s something that I’m working on,” Nicasio said. “Whenever it’s not functioning, everyone is expecting that fastball. That just was happening right now.”

The back-to-back poor outings from Locke and Nicasio have Pirates fans desperate for answers for the rotation, especially on a night where the Pirates dropped to .500. I’ll have more on that in tonight’s First Pitch.

Big Night From Andrew McCutchen

One consolation tonight was that Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 with his tenth homer of the year and his 13th double, showing some positive signs in a season that has been anything but positive. Prior to tonight, McCutchen had a .234/.313/.397 line in 281 plate appearances on the season. It wasn’t getting better in June, with a .140/.204/.160 line in 54 plate appearances in June.

McCutchen moved to the number three spot in the batting order last night, and remained there tonight. Clint Hurdle said that the Pirates will give him some time there and see how things go.

“It was an encouraging night. It’s good to see McCutchen swing the bat like that,” Hurdle said.

The move back to the three spot probably wasn’t what led to the results, at least not in McCutchen’s opinion.

“I can’t say just because you’re hitting third you’re going to do better,” McCutchen said. “It just happens that I moved around a little bit, I got to a place I’m pretty familiar with, and where it goes from there is where it goes from there. But I’m still working before these games, and when the game starts just run out and playing. Hitting third, I really don’t think has that big of a deal to do with it. It’s a place I’m familiar with.”

McCutchen said that he was on time today, and made the proper adjustments, noting that he hasn’t done a good job of that lately. Hurdle said that tonight was one of the best nights for consistent production.

“More connected in one game,” Hurdle said. “We’ve seen an at-bat here and an at-bat there, but I thought the volume of work in the game, throughout the game, was solid tonight. Really consistent.”

So what is the reason McCutchen had the success tonight? He had a lot to say on the matter.

“Just trusting myself. Trying not to be so mechanical up there when I’m hitting. I’ve been falling into the habit of trying to stay the same. Trying to do the same thing over and over and over, as opposed to just adjusting to whatever may happen, prior to a pitch. Might be late on an at-bat. Before, I just would do the same thing. I just would try and mimic and be this perfect person when I was up there, as opposed to I’m late on that, I need to make an adjustment and get my foot down and be on time. That’s what I haven’t been doing. That’s the type of adjustment I was able to do and make [tonight].”

Hopefully this is a lasting trend. The Pirates have had a good offense this year, but they could certainly use McCutchen playing close to his MVP self than what they’ve seen this year.

“I just know that the work is going to pay off, and it’s going to get there, and today was a good sign,” McCutchen said.

Starling Marte Update

Starling Marte said that the ball last night hit him right below the eye and he immediately was feeling bad from the pain. He didn’t have any vision issues, but did see the swelling go down.

“The swelling yesterday was a lot, but with the treatment and just the instructions that the trainers gave me, I was able to bring the swelling down,” Marte said through Gonzalez. “Today I’m feeling much better.”

Marte wasn’t sure if he would be playing tomorrow.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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