Jones heating up at the right time

After hitting just .232 during the first two months of the season, Garrett Jones has turned it on as of late. Since June 14th, Jones is batting .333 (20 for 60) with 5 HR and 15 RBI in 18 games. His batting average, which was at .250 on June 13th, now sits at .275, which is the highest it’s been since May 8th (.279).

In that stretch, the Pirates are 8-2 in games in which G.I. Jones records a hit, as well as 6-1 in games that he drives in a run. The Bucs scored the most runs of any National League team in June, and could continue to put numbers up on the board as long as Jones keeps staying hot. Here’s why:

Andrew McCutchen is terrorizing opponents this year, and has absolutely mashed balls that pitchers have given him in the strike zone. Cutch, who was named the National League Player of the Month for June, has hit .442 (19 for 43) over his last ten games. However, opponents most likely will start pitching around him and/or more carefully to him.

The Astros pitched cautiously to McCutchen in the fifth inning on Wednesday afternoon, after Drew Sutton‘s leadoff double and Neil Walker‘s groundout. Once the count grew to 3-1, Houston decided just to put him on first instead of attacking the zone; if they had, Cutch could’ve increased the lead after the ‘Stros pulled within one run. However, the Pirates failed to capitalize after Casey McGehee struck out and Jones popped up. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but still represents the opportunities that could arise as pitchers are more careful with McCutchen. Two men on with less than two runs puts the middle of the order in a great position. With the frequency the Cutch is getting on base, Jones really is heating up at the right time.

McCutchen has driven the offense, and everyone is curious as to why opponents are still giving him pitches to hit. If they start putting him on base more often, the players behind him will have more opportunities to drive in runs. Jones has been the hottest hitter of the bunch, but McGehee and Pedro Alvarez have contributed plenty as of late as well. Here’s a look at their last ten games:

AVG HR RBI
Garrett Jones .389 4 11
Neil Walker .375 1 7
Pedro Alvarez .324 2 13
Casey McGehee .310 2 9

The Pirates, who could barely score just a few runs per game at the beginning of the season, are now providing their pitchers with much-needed support. If the offense stays hot, especially the guys in the middle of the order, the Bucs have a great chance to keep winning ballgames. They have a pretty easy schedule over the next few weeks, with the exception of the first-place San Francisco Giants. Here’s a look at the next five opponents’ pitching, based on ERA:
– San Francisco, 3.43 ERA (3rd in MLB)
– Milwaukee, 4.26 ERA (tied 22nd in MLB)
– Colorado, 5.35 ERA (30th in MLB)
– Miami, 4.26 (tied 22nd in MLB)
– Chicago, 4.41 ERA (25th in MLB)

The Giants have some solid pitching, but the Bucs will miss their top two starters, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The next four opponents are all in the bottom-third of the league. Hopefully the Pirates can continue their offensive success and remain near the top of the NL Central.

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