By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The silver lining to a disappointing sweep at Coors Field for the Pirates was the avoidance of potentially key injuries to third baseman Pedro Alvarez and left fielder Starling Marte.

Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette reported x-rays of Marte’s left hand showed no fracture after it was hit by a pitch in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the host Rockies. Marte left that game prematurely, but he later affirmed on Twitter he would be fine.

In the same game, Alvarez hurt his left index finger in the home half of the sixth inning in a collision with Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. He was examined by trainers but finished the contest.

Marte has brought his average up to .282 and his OPS to .782 for the season while hitting .344 this month. His 125 hits from the top of the order were the most by a National League leadoff hitter entering Sunday.

Alvarez is trying to rediscover his groove since being named to the National League All-Star Team. He’s hitting just around .190 in the past month with four home runs. Despite impressive season-long power numbers–he still leads the NL with 28 homers–and defensive stats, he’s committed five errors this month and leads all NL third basemen in that category.

The Pirates have evolved into a good team, but they aren’t yet a deep one. According to Zach Morrison of Rant Sports, five “irreplaceable” players have fueled their season, and he puts face-of-the-franchise center fielder Andrew McCutchen at the top of that list.

He’s hitting .313 with an .893 OPS for the season with 16 homers and 66 driven in, and is tied for the league lead in WAR (wins above replacement) by position players at 6.2.

“Andrew McCutchen has developed into one of the best overall players in MLB, with a great speed-power combination,” Morrison writes. “His defense has become very good in centerfield {sic} and his base-running has improved as well.”

Despite conventional wisdom that McCutchen historically struggles as the season winds down, he’s hitting .483 in August with a 1.273 OPS, along with three doubles, seven RBI, and six multiple-hit games.

Click here to read the full column by Morrison, including where he ranks Marte and Alvarez on his list of “irreplaceable” Bucs.

The Pirates (70-47) will try to defend their three-game NL Central lead against the St. Louis Cardinals (67-50) at Busch Stadium beginning Tuesday at 8:15 on your flagship home of Pirates baseball, SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan.


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