Moran carrying clout into '19 after Polanco tweak

Kang makes 1st start in 2 years; Catchers finish with at least 10 HRs apiece

September 29th, 2018

CINCINNATI -- 's turnaround began on June 6, when he followed advice from the Pirates' coaching staff and moved away from the plate. From that day until his season-ending left shoulder injury, Polanco hit .287 with a .920 OPS. took notice.

"I think watching him having a lot of success with it was definitely motivational," Moran said. "But shoot, he's really talented. I try not to do everything he can do, because I can't."

But after Moran struggled through the middle of the season, he realized he could utilize part of Polanco's plan. Toward the end of August, Moran also decided to step away from the plate. So perhaps it's no coincidence that he has hit .300/.373/.540 with three homers and three doubles in September, the kind of momentum he'd like to carry into 2019.

"It's just kind of helped slow things down. I was going up there with little chance to not get myself out," Moran said. "I stopped handcuffing myself, kind of slowing things down."

As he looked around the league, Moran couldn't find many hitters built like himself -- 6-foot-4 with long arms -- who were successful setting up so close to the plate. It wasn't working for him, either. But the change has allowed Moran to see pitches, barrel up inside fastballs, pull the ball in the air and spray line drives to left field.

The Pirates, who acquired Moran as part of their return for , believe he could provide left-handed power to their lineup, but it has come and gone throughout his first full year in the Majors. He entered Saturday batting .277/.339/.406 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs in 460 plate appearances this season.

Moran will admit there's room for improvement, but he has shown his ability at the plate over the last month. Now, the key is building on that late-season success.

"I've learned a lot. Obviously, I've had my fair share of downs, and some highs," he said. "Just trying to learn how to be consistent. … Just trying not to get too down on myself, and use it as a learning experience and take the positives away."

Around the horn

• After lining a pinch-hit single to left field on Friday, made his first Major League start in nearly two years on Saturday afternoon. Kang got the nod at third base, batting fifth.

• Shortstop and second baseman Josh Harrison were in Pittsburgh's lineup for possibly the last time together. Mercer will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Harrison's contract includes a $10.5 million club option or a ($1 million) buyout for next year.

• This is the first season since 2012 in which the Pirates have had two catchers with at least 10 home runs. entered Saturday with 11 homers, and hit his 10th on Friday night. (12) and Rod Barajas (11) put up double-digit homers in '12.