Mon 18/08/2014 - 20:44 EDT

Return Of Andrew McCutchen Could Save Pirates' Season

Return Of Andrew McCutchen Could Save Pirates' Season

The Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to activate All-Star outfielder and 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen off the disabled list on Tuesday, and the guy is good enough to help push the Pirates into the postseason for the second straight year. Frankly, he's probably the most important player to his team in all of the major leagues.

Out Of NL MVP Race Now

McCutchen has been sidelined since Aug. 5 with a fractured rib and cartilage injury in his left side. He was the baseball betting favorite to win the NL MVP again but now has fallen off that list. It figures to be a two-man race between Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. McCutchen this season is following up his stellar 2013 with similar strong numbers. He's batting .311 with a career-best (and MLB-leading) OPS+ of 166. He's also tallied 17 homers and 17 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He leads the NL with 68 walks.

In his absence Pittsburgh has shifted Starling Marte from left field to center field and used Travis Snider as the primary left fielder. And the Pirates have gone 5-8 without McCutchen in the lineup, including five consecutive losses. The Pirates entered play Monday 5.5 games out of first in the NL Central and 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.

Liriano Vs. Harang

The Pirates host Atlanta on Tuesday and opened as -136 favorites behind lefty Francisco Liriano. His 3-9 record is quite misleading as he has managed a win in only two of his eight quality starts. Has twice as many strikeouts (57) as hits allowed (28) in his last nine starts, covering 50 innings. Atlanta starts Aaron Harang. He has allowed more than four earned runs in just three of his 25 starts. Two of these starts, including his most recent, were completed in afternoon games. He has a 4.25 ERA in 13 starts at PNC Park.

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