With names like Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte roaming two-thirds of the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield, it is understandable if the last member gets a little lost in the shuffle. Even for Gregory Polanco, who has enjoyed a successful start to the season, the right fielder may always take a back seat to McCutchen and Marte.
But for one day, Polanco was able to take center stage and show why he was arguably a higher regarded prospect then either of his outfield teammates.
In a situation the Pirates would like to avoid as much as possible, their matinee contest against the Chicago Cubs featured only one-third of their usual starting outfield – with Polanco the lone participant.
Gregory Polanco Shines As Focus Of Offense
After being hit in the hand by a pitch in Wednesday’s night contest, Marte did not start (did come in later as a pinch runner) and was joined by McCutchen – who did not play (did pinch-hit) due to a scheduled day off.
So with Sean Rodriguez and Andrew Lambo flanking him, missing two of their best players – Polanco put the offense on his back and willed his team to a victory – earning a series split.
Batting in McCutchen’s usual third spot in the lineup, Polanco collected three more hits – giving him a team leading 18 overall and drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning.
Hitting third is something that Polanco hasn’t done much – not surprising with McCutchen there – but in the two games now that he has, maybe is something the Pirates could look into. In two starts in that spot in the lineup, Polanco is 6-for-8, with two runs, two stolen bases, two doubles and two RBIs.
Polanco started his day with a single, stole second and then advanced to third base as catcher Welington Castillo attempted to keep him honest with a throw to second after a pitch.
When the Pirates made the push in their mid-inning comeback bid, Polanco started things off with a RBI double driving in Josh Harrison after a leadoff double by the third baseman and later scored on a Neil Walker single.
With an opportunity then to put his team up, and potentially win, the lefty fought his way back from an 0-2 count and forced five extra pitches from fellow left hander Phil Coke before the sixth one was hit the other way between the shortstop and third baseman.
The Pirates took the lead, and eventually the game with that hit.
Heading into the season a lot was made of the Pirates outfield, some calling it the best in the game. That prediction was made mostly with the outliner that Polanco took the next step forward with his progression.
So far this year Polanco is the only regular starter with a .300 average, leading the team in hits as well as stolen bases. His long stride has allowed him to steal more bases than the rest of the team has altogether.
Although he only has one home run, the power is starting to creep up; of his 18 total hits seven of them have been for extra base hits. With a home run in Wednesday night’s game, he has extra base hits in each of his last two starts and currently sits fourth on the team in slugging.
Anytime you can win a game with three of your eight regular position players on the bench is impressive, but the way that Polanco came through – and do so without the shadow hanging over you of your fellow outfielders – is that much more impressive.
The Pirates felt so confident in Polanco’s progression they felt comfortable trading Travis Snider – the player who took right field back from Polanco – to the Baltimore Orioles.
With some struggles undoubtedly set to come at some point in the season, Polanco has shown the future is bright and that he is a star in the making in his own right.