• The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season since Andrew McCutchen was 6 years old. As July arrives, the Pirates are in lockstep with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in baseball and have been perhaps the brightest surprise of the 2013 season. McCutchen is having another fine season, hitting .287 (entering the weekend) with eight home runs, 38 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He has been joined by Starling Marte (.282, eight home runs, 24 RBI, 22 stolen bases) and Pedro Alvarez (.242, 19 home runs, 51 RBI) to boost the Pirates’ lineup and the rotation has been light-years ahead of where it was expected to be before the season. A.J. Burnett has a 3.12 ERA and 99 strikeouts, Jeff Locke leads the rotation in wins and ERA, with seven and 2.06, respectively, and rookie Gerrit Cole has been as good or better than advertised, winning his first three starts and posting a 3.44 ERA. At the back end of the bullpen, Jason Grilli leads the National League in saves entering Friday with 26, four ahead of Craig Kimbrel. Last year, the Pirates, like the Indians, got off to a hot start but folded down the stretch. At 18 games over .500 in late June and gaining steam, it looks like 1992 (the last time the Pirates posted a winning season) can finally stop tormenting baseballs fans down the turnpike.
• Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig’s rampage through National League pitching hasn’t slowed down, and he’s putting up numbers to start a career that are as good as any hitter to come before him. Through his first 23 games, Puig is hitting .427 with seven home runs, four doubles and 16 RBI. His OPS is 1.165. He has 38 hits and 63 total bases in 23 games. His on-base percentage is .457. And he’s 22 years old.
• Puig has been so hot, in fact, that it’s sparked a debate asking if he deserves to be in the All-Star Game. On one side, no hitter in baseball has been hotter since Puig entered the lineup four weeks ago. If the National League wants to win, the argument is, why wouldn’t they want the hitters playing the best? On the other hand, reaching a Summer Classic after playing about 50 fewer games doesn’t seem quite right, either. Some of the top outfielders Puig would have to beat out to make the team: Carlos Gomez (.313 average, 12 home runs, 37 runs batted in, 15 stolen bases), Carlos Gonzalez (.297, 21 HR, 58 RBI, 14 SB), Hunter Pence (.288, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 13 SB), Jay Bruce (.275, 8 HR, 55 RBI) and McCutchen.
— Ryan Lewis