Pirates shuffling outfielders as Brewers march toward playoffs
MILWAUKEE — With right fielder Gregory Polanco out for the remainder of the year following shoulder surgery, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle plans to rotate playing time among four players during the final weeks of the regular season.
On Friday, Jordan Luplow got the start in right field and Pablo Reyes started in left as the Pirates opened up a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Reyes, Adam Frazier and rookie Kevin Kramer will also see time in right field before the season wraps up on Sept. 30.
“You’re going to see Frazier out there when we want Frazier and Kramer in the lineup, because only one can play second base,” Hurdle said before Friday’s game. “Luplow’s going to be the beneficiary, I would imagine, of the most time out there. Reyes might find his way out there. Outside of that, there’s really nobody else to look at, from my perspective.”
Polanco dislocated his shoulder sliding into second base a week ago and underwent surgery earlier this week to repair his labrum. He led the team with 23 home runs and 81 RBIs at the time of the injury.
“There’s a degree of disappointment,” Hurdle said. “There’s a degree of angst. However, at the end of the day, he needs to feel what he needs to feel. And there’ll be a time when he’s going to say, ‘OK, now it’s time to go back to work,’ and Gregory will go back to work.
“He’ll have the support of his family, he’ll have the support of the organization, he’ll have the support of a lot of people. He’s a man that’s always been self-motivated, focused. It’s just what’s next for him right now. To be unfortunate, however, that part’s already over. The unfortunate part is over. The injury’s over. Now is the healing, the rehab, and the strengthening and then the getting ready to play, whenever that is. We’ll look forward to that.”
The Pirates will face Milwaukee right-hander Zach Davies (2-5, 4.75 ERA) for the first time this season when the series resumes Saturday night.
Davies has been impressive in his two starts since returning from a three-month stint on the disabled list, allowing only three total runs with nine strikeouts and a pair of walks over 10 innings. He did not get a decision in either of those starts, however.
“I was ready,” Davies said of his return after battling through shoulder and back injuries. “I was healthy, and I knew it. I knew where my stuff was at, I knew my body was healthy.”
Davies went 2-1 with a 3.70 in four starts against the Pirates last season, but is 2-3 with a 6.49 ERA in seven career starts against Pittsburgh.
Milwaukee won Friday’s game 7-4. The Pirates have dropped two in a row and three of their last four to Milwaukee after winning eight of the first 10 meetings this season.
A victory Saturday would clinch the Brewers’ second series victory over the Pirates this season and their eighth series in a row overall. They continue to keep the pressure on the NL Central-leading Cubs, trailing Chicago by just 1 1/2 games. They are also protecting their lead over the Cardinals and now the Dodgers for the top NL wild-card spot. Milwaukee has a four-game lead on both of those teams.
The Pirates’ starter on Saturday will be Ivan Nova (8-9, 4.17). He ended a personal three-game losing streak by pitching six scoreless innings in a 5-1 victory over the Marlins last Saturday.
Nova is 2-2 with a 3.03 ERA in six career starts against Milwaukee, and he started one game against the Brewers this season, allowing one run and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings in a game Pittsburgh won 2-1 on July 14.