PITTSBURGH -- Reasons behind the Pirates' late-May U-turn have been well chronicled, from the Andrew McCutchen-led offensive revival to A.J. Burnett's sudden invincibility. But somewhat overlooked has been the two-headed cleanup hitter: Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee.
Since June 3, when Pedro Alvarez's ill-fated experiment in the four-hole was called off, the lefty-hitting Jones and right-handed McGehee have exclusively owned the cleanup spot. The Bucs took a record of 24-14 since that day into Friday night's game against Miami.
"They've done a very professional job piggy-backing one another," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I'm very proud of both, considering neither had done a lot at cleanup before."
Prior to this season, McGehee batted No. 4 in only six of 437 big league games. Jones had more experience in the spot, but little of it good. He went 2-for-19 in seven games last season as the cleanup hitter.
As the main protector for No. 3 hitter McCutchen, Jones was batting .311 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in his first 34 games in the four-hole.
As significant to the Pirates' surge has been the mutual lineup presences of both McGehee and Jones. For most of the first two months of the season, they were platooned at first base. Jose Tabata's return to Triple-A Indianapolis opened right field for Jones, with McGehee finding a home at first. With both in the lineup, the Pirates were 19-10 entering Friday's game.
And when both began playing regularly, they lost that natural urge to one-up each other.
"I think me and Garrett both felt we were trying to do too much when we were going back and forth," McGehee conceded. "I know he feels the same way, because we've talked about it: Any role we can fill to help this team, we're good with it."