If ever there were a cure for a six-game losing streak, getting the reigning MVP back in your lineup might just be it. At least that's what the Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping now that they've activated Andrew McCutchen from the disabled list.
McCutchen hasn't played since Aug. 3 and the Pirates are 5-9 in that span, punctuated by a losing streak that's seen them fall to the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.
McCutchen was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list last Monday, but the move was retroactive to the previous week. He left the Pirates' game on Aug. 3 after hitting a sac fly and immediately nursing his side. It was eventually determined that McCutchen had a fractured rib.
There's still some question about how he got hurt. McCutchen was drilled in the back with a pitch from the Arizona Diamondbacks a day prior. The D-backs were seeking revenge after the Pirates hit Paul Goldschmidt. The rib injury hasn't been officially linked to the HBP, but when asked about it Tuesday, McCutchen said it's possible:
The bigger issue for the Pirates is getting back in the win column. They were a half-game back in the wild-card standings when McCutchen got hurt. The Pirates actually won a few games without their MVP and grabbed the second wild-card spot for a couple days. But since hitting their slump, the Pirates have sagged behind the Braves and Giants again.
The Pirates are still just two games behind the Giants in the wild card and one behind the Braves. Since they're playing Atlanta twice more this week, that gap is hardly insurmountable.
On Thursday, the Pirates start a series with the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers (who are six games up on Pittsburgh). Then the Buccos play three against the St. Louis Cardinals, who are ahead of them in both the division and wild-card standings.
In other words: It's a good time to have McCutchen back.
He's hitting .311/.411/.536 this season with 17 homers and 67 RBIs. He'd been doing great this summer too. At the time of his injury, he was leading all NL hitters in batting average, slugging percentage and RBIs since June 1.
McCutchen will wear special padding and clothing to protect his ribs now that he's back. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
McCutchen wore an EvoShield compression shirt with extra padding around the rib cage to take pressure off the fracture and protect him from getting hit by a pitch. He expects to wear the extra padding the rest of the season. He said he felt no pain swinging, but could not be sure whether or not any pain remained in his side.
“I have a really high pain tolerance. I could be in a little bit of pain but not even know it,” he said. “It’s not hindering me from doing anything that I have to do on the field.”
Spoken like an MVP.
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