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California BUCN

In the three years since the Pirates brought winning baseball back to Pittsburgh, the West Coast has been the best coast. The Pirates are a combined 19-11 in California since the 2013 season.

The total includes a 3-0 record during interleague games against the Anaheim Angels in 2013; a 7-3 posting against the Giants; a 6-4 record against the Padres and 3 wins versus 4 losses against the Dodgers (with three games remaining in LA).

East Coast Bucco baseball loving fans can take solace in the fact that the 18-20 September series in LA is at least on a weekend--thus reducing the sleep deprivation that this California road trip produced. If the Pirates win the LA series, they can even their three-year record against the Dodgers. Heck--if they have the luck of the Cardinals--they may even miss Kershaw.

Despite stumbling into work bleary-eyed and tired, the 5-2 trip was mostly satisfying. Here are a few things we learned. 1) Andrew McCutchen is all the way back.

In the seven games against the Padres and Giants, McCutchen went a blistering 12 for 24; drove in seven; scored six times and added four walks. If not for two great plays by SF outfielders, Cutch could have padded his RBI total by at least three.

2) The starting pitching is still really good. Cole keeps stacking wins with eight (leading MLB) and is evolving into the ace the Pirates will need for a pennant run. Burnett is finally getting some run support and Liriano has upped his strikeout total to 81 (fifth in the NL).

3) The "role" players are coming through. Francisco Cervelli, while not hitting for power, has produced as much or better than the departed Russell Martin. Jordy Mercer has responded to the push he is getting from Jung Ho Kang. Kang is still learning his way in America but has 19 RBI on the year with about half the ABs of the other NL starting shortstops.

I won't dwell on the negative--yeah, winning does that--but Pedro Alvarez's defense is beginning to be a concern. He has eight errors and is on pace for 22+. Last year he had 25 errors at third. In the SF series he missed a soft line drive hit directly at him and botched a low--but playable--throw by Cervelli.

I'm a Pedro fan. I really am. But...Pedro leads all MLB first basemen in errors. (Just as he led all third basemen in errors in 2012 and 2013). While it is invigorating to see him going the other way this year, Pedro has never developed into the cleanup hitter he was projected to become. Pedro is going to have to do more if the first base experiment is to be a success. If not, it might be best if we see Josh Bell sooner rather than later.