June 10, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) prepares to bat in the on-deck circle against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Two Surprising Teams Do Battle in Pittsburgh

For how surprisingly good the Pirates have been this year, the Twins have probably been that surprisingly bad. Through the first two months of the season the Twins were 18-32, easily the worst record in baseball at the time. The team has since rebounded a bit with an 8-7 record in June thus far, but they still aren’t a team that scares you when they come into your home ballpark. While nobody expected the Twins to win their division, they certainly didn’t foresee this bad of a start for them.

Your Pirates are 34-31 as they host the Twins who now sit at 26-39. These are big home games for the Pirates; you always want to capitalize when you have a weaker opponent come into your home ballpark. They did a nice job of that recently with sweeps of the Cubs and Royals, and they will look to replicate those performances this week. So let’s take a look at the team they’re going to be trying to do it against.

The Twins aren’t the worst offensive team around, they hit .257 as a team but struggle to hit for power. There’s only four teams in the league with less homers than the Twins, but that might have something to do with their home ballpark. The problem with Minnesota is the pitching, as is with most last place teams. They have a team ERA of 5.05 and a WHIP of 1.41. They’ve been getting some recent help however.

Scott Diamond is on the hill for the Twins in game one, and he has been just phenomenal recently. He’s a 25 year old kid who made his 2012 debut on May 8th. Since then he has a 2.13 ERA in eight starts. He’s gotten through four starts without allowing an earned run and the Twins are 6-2 in games he starts. It sounds even worse when you see that he’s matched up with Kevin Correia. Not looking great on the pitching matchup side of things tonight, but you’ve still gotta feel decently confident with a rejuvenated Pirates offense against an all around bad Twins team.

Wednesday’s pitching matchup is Francisco Liriano against Erik Bedard. Liriano is the picture of inconsistency. This guy has thrown a no-hitter in his career and even got Cy Young votes in 2010, but the last two years his ERA has looked just horrible. His 5.09 mark in 2011 was disappointing and he’s off to an even worse start this year with a 6.24 mark. He’s been better of late with 3.03 ERA and 29 strikeouts in his last four starts (23.2 innings). Batters are hitting .148 against him in that time. He’s still striking guys out this year with a 9.2 K/9 mark on the season, but he has had a lot of control problems with 5.6 BB/9. Bedard had a rough go of it in Baltimore last week and will look to bounce back. Two inconsistent pitchers should make for a very hard to predict baseball game.

The series finale will feature Liam Hendriks and James McDonald. He’s made just five starts this year but has a 7.83 ERA. He gave up six runs to the Angels in 2.1 innings two starts ago but gave up just two earned in five innings against the Brewers last week. The Twins are 1-4 when he starts, but at the age of 23 he has some upside. He was signed a free agent in 2007 out of Australia, which makes him an interesting story. We’ll have more on him when that game comes around.

For now you have to like the Pirates chances of winning this series. They have scored 18 runs in their last two games, and 31 in their last six games. That’s over five a game which is going to win you a ton of baseball games when you pitch well. Unfortunately the Pirates didn’t pitch all that well on the road trip, but you still have to be confident.

I’m penciling in two wins for the Pirates right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had to use my eraser to make that three.

Tags: Erik Bedard James McDonald Kevin Correia Minnesota Twins

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