PITTSBURGH -- The 0-for-7 listed next to Aki Iwamura's name in Thursday morning's stat sheet doesn't begin to tell the story of what Iwamura's presence at the top of the lineup has meant to the club during these first two days. The hits may not have fallen for the veteran infielder just yet, but no one has been as tough of an out as Iwamura.
"He's done great," manager John Russell said. "He's making pitchers work, and that sets up a lot of things for our offense. The quality of at-bats that he is having is a big plus for our lineup."
In his 10 plate appearances so far, Iwamura has seen at least six pitches eight times. He's worked the count full seven times, and gone to a three-ball count all but twice. Iwamura has already drawn three walks, two of which preceded home runs by Garrett Jones, who hits two spots behind Iwamura.
The byproduct of such plate discipline is obviously invaluable. It has allowed No. 2 hitter Andrew McCutchen to see more pitches before coming to the plate. It gives Jones a chance to see how the pitcher attacks a left-handed hitter. And it has the potential to cumulatively tax the opposing pitcher.
"Aki communicates very well when he comes back to the bench," Russell said. "What he's doing for us is what we kind of envisioned he would be doing. The value that he has brought to our lineup has been very good."