The Road Warrior Pittsburgh Pirates take their freak show into Florida. The Bucs have won their first three road series for the first time since 2002. Remember 2002? No? Me neither.
The Pirates limped into Cincinnati as the worst team in the NL at scoring runs. That didn’t last long against the hyped Reds staff. Now the explosive young Bucs are riding some serious momentum as they head into a tough matchup against All-World righty Josh Johnson in the opener of a three-game series with the Florida/Miami Marlins.
Florida comes back home after a successful road trip. The Fish took two of three games from the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves. They also split two against Philadelphia.
Andrew McCutchen had been shut down in the Rockies series. Clint Hurdle moved Cutch to the top of the Pirates lineup, dropped Tabata down a slot, moved Neil Walker to the four hole and voila, the offense came to life. Seven Pirates had two hits last night.
Cutch drove in two Bucco teammates for the second straight night. @ThirdBoss tweeted this quote this morning. (I’m in the hospital with limited access at the moment with the Franchise)
“It gives us more confidence, winning another game on the road against a team in our division,” McCutchen said. “I believe it’s three now, right? That’s great.”
Johnson is a tough customer and took a no-no into the eighth last week against the Braves. The right hander also held the Mets hitless for the first several innings in the opener for the Fish. He has a 1.35ERA and has won two starts this season.
Johnson is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in two career starts against the young Bucs. Captain Intensity Jose Tabata has three hits in four at-bats against Johnson.
Paul Maholm goes for the Bucs tonight. He has a nice ERA and has pitched rather well for the Pirates this season. The big bats of the Fish are off to a slow start and look to rebound against the Bucs lefty. Hanley Ramirez has ripped the Bucs in the past, but is barely above .240 early this season.
Mike Stanton who was consistently mentioned as performing better than Pedro Alvarez last season, hasn’t hit a homer yet this year. Alvarez is off to a hideous start this year, but has hit Marlins pitching with authority last year, despite his Bucs winning only two games in seven tries.
Recent matchups for Johnson and Maholm
Johnson struck out six and issued no walks. He gave up two solo bombs and seven hits to the Bucs.
Maholm went just 5.2 innings last year against the Marlins. He gave up four runs, eight hits including a homer (which is commonplace for him when facing the Fish.)
Keys to the game
The Bucs offense taking advantage of every possible opportunity against Johnson.
The Pirates defense behind Maholm will need to be flawless for 27 outs for the Pirates to have a shot. There will be little opportunity for mistakes with as well as Johnson has pitched recently. So we can’t say we are feeling real good about tonight. But what about this season has made sense thus far?
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