Coming off a sweep of the Marlins, the Pirates head out west to the Mile High City for a three game series with the Rockies. The teams met for a three game set at PNC Park from August second through fourth, when the Pirates took two of three to win the series. The Pirates are on a winning streak, having won five in a row, and eight of their last ten, while the Rockies are trending downward, with five consecutive losses, and have only one win in their last ten games.
Game One: Francisco Liriano (12-4, 2.02) Vs. Jorge De La Rosa (10-6, 3.31): When the Pirates and Rockies played last week, Liriano and De La Rosa were matched up against each other, and the Pirates won the game 5-2. Liriano was dominant, going seven shutout innings and only giving up two hits. De La Rosa struggled with efficiency problems, and only made it through four innings, and giving up three runs on six hits. De La Rosa has struggled in his last two starts, while Liriano has been dominant over his last three, going to further show the opposite directions in which the teams are headed.
Game Two: A.J. Burnett (5-7, 2.73) Vs. Juan Nicasio (6-6, 5.05): This is a rematch of the game from August fourth, in which Burnett threw a complete game and only gave up one run on eight hits, while Nicasio gave up four runs over 4.1 innings of work on six hits. Nicasio has struggled of late, throwing only eight innings over his last two starts. A.J. Burnett is back on track after injuries and a couple of bad outings had his season trending down, over his last three starts he’s gone twenty-three innings and only given up three earned runs, while striking out twenty-three.
Game Three: Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.47) Vs. Chad Bettis (0-1, 6.30): While the first two games of the series feature veteran matchups, game three belongs to the young bucks. Locke was awesome in the first half, but has struggled since the All-Star break. Despite bad outings, the Pirates have won each of his last two starts, but Locke is due to be the reason for the win, rather than the obstruction. Bettis has pitched only two games as a big leaguer, he’s a righty with a mid-90s fastball, and some inconsistent secondary pitches, and he’s been knocked around a bit since coming to the Rockies, with a 1.60 WHIP, and 6.30 ERA.
Pirates Players To Watch:
Andrew McCutchen: Over the last seven days, Andrew McCutchen is hitting .692/.765/1.077, and against the Rockies, he hit .600/.667/.800, and while he didn’t start in yesterday’s game due to shoulder discomfort/tiredness, he came through with his first career pinch hit. McCutchen was already putting together an MVP season, but he’s been even better of late, helping the Pirates to an 8-2 record over their last ten games.
Neil Walker: Walker is batting .395/.471/.605 over the last two weeks, and his season average is starting to creep into the range where you’d expect it to be. He’s got the second best OBP on the Pirates behind only McCutchen, and he’s hot of late. He’s also a fan of playing at Coors Field, hitting .324/.375/.486 over his career while in Denver.
Pedro Alvarez: Alverez has been a week without a home run, and is hitting .196 over the last two weeks. Alvarez needs to get it going again soon, and playing in Colorado might be the perfect opportunity for him to do it, although he may get the day off against De La Rosa.
Rockies Players To Watch:
Dexter Fowler: Colorado’s leadoff man is having some serious struggles of late, hitting .162/.311/.270 over the last two weeks. His batting average in the month of August is .059, one hit in seventeen at bats. He’s been a huge part of the Rockies recent slide, and he needs to get going soon if Colorado is going to snap out of their slump.
Todd Helton: Helton’s slumping nearly as badly as Fowler, hitting .083/.154/.167 over the last week. Over his career he’s been another Pirates killer though, batting .342/.437/.586 against the Buccos since his career began in 1997.
Troy Tulowitzki: As I scrolled through the Rockies recent numbers I expected to find something good, a lone light in a darkness that has been their recent skid, but even Troy Tulowitzki is slumping right now. He’s hit .071/.235/.071 over the last week, numbers that you would expect from John McDonald (thank God the Pirates have Jordy Mercer now), not Tulowitzki. He’s still a threat against the Pirates, over his career he’s hit .366/.422/.593 against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates lead the season series 2-1.
The first two games of this three game weekend set are matchups of the last two games of last weekend’s series.
If the Pirates take two of three in this series, they will match their entire win total from 2011, before the end of August.