The Pittsburgh Pirates have faced some insanely tough pitchers in their first four games. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, and Clayton Kershaw. But the most intriguing is the one they will face tonight after the Penguins and Flyers game.
His name is Chad Billingsley, and he is 5-1 against the Pirates in six starts and four relief appearances. Billingsley’s debut was the most eye-popping of the 2012 season. He struck out eleven San Diego Padres hitters in 8.1 shutout innings.
He has gained the attention of writers in the past; in fact, last year Rob Neyer pegged Billingsley to win the Cy Young. Of course, that didn’t happen and people in the Dodgers organization noticed… which brings us to spring training this season.
Billingsley was making a small mechanical change with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt that might be a reason for his one game dominance. Or, it could simply be the fact that he was facing the Padres.
This is what spring training is for, obviously, to iron out little things. But this is a fairly big change for Billingsley, who is trying to stop kicking his front leg out during his delivery — which often results in his body getting ahead of his arm and sometimes allows gravity and momentum to affect his motion — and start keeping that leg underneath his body.
Billingsley felt that the old delivery added some movement to his fastball, but turned his curve into more of a slurve.
So, if you didn’t have too many Bud Light ‘Nums during the Pens game, keep your eyes on the movement of Billingsley’s pitches tonight. If he starts whiffing Buccos left and right, we might be able to have another crutch to lean on as it relates to the Pirates Offense Light. The Dodgers just might have the pitcher they dreamed about when they made him their first round pick.
Erik Bedard goes for the Bucs. He was masterful on Opening Day against the Phillies. The lefty held the Phillies to soft contact and just one run after a flare double over his seven innings.
Being in the AL, Bedard has faced the Dodgers just once, way back in 2004. It was his tenth start of his career.
The Dodgers own the Bucs. The Pirates haven’t won a season set against L.A. since 2000. The Big Blue have the NL’s best winning percentage which is .708 against Pittsburgh over the last ten seasons. The Dodgers have won 51 of 72 games since 2002.