Coming off of an embarrassing three game sweep at the hands of the Rockies, the Pirates head to St. Louis to face the Cardinals, in an important three game series. The Cardinals dropped two of three to the Cubs in their most recent series, and are 4-6 in their last ten games (the Pirates are 5-5). This series will cover three of the nine remaining games between the teams before the end of the regular season, and will also include the major league debut of Andrew Lambo. The Pirates have been good against the Cardinals this year, posting a 7-3 record in ten head to head games, but have also had some trouble on the road, going only 29-27 while playing away from PNC Park.
Game One: Charlie Morton (4-3, 3.88) Vs. Adam Wainwright(13-7, 2.66): The last time the Pirates and Cardinals got together for a game, Morton got himself knocked around, giving up five earned on ten hits over six innings, en route to a disastrous 13-0 loss. Morton bounced back well in his next start, going seven strong, giving up only two earned. Wainwright has been nothing short of Cy Young worthy all year, but for whatever reason, the Pirates have been successful against him, Wainwright’s career ERA against Pittsburgh is 5.19, and the Pirates have posted a .297/.350/.423 line against him.
Game Two: Francisco Liriano (12-5, 2.83) Vs. Shelby Miller (11-7, 2.89): Liriano is coming off of the worst start of his career, last weekend against the Rockies he gave up ten runs on twelve hits, over 2.1 innings of work. His ERA spiked from 2.02, to 2.83. Miller is coming off of a start in which he threw only two pitches, before being struck in the elbow with a line drive and being forced to exit his start against the Dodgers. Miller is 0-2 against the Pirates this season, with an ERA of 3.86.
Game Three: A.J. Burnett (5-8, 2.95) Vs. Lance Lynn (13-6, 3.79): After a stretch of three consecutive dominant starts, Burnett had a rough go of it against Colorado, going 5.2 innings, and giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits. He’s 2-0 this year with an ERA of 1.35 when pitching against the Cardinals. Lynn is 2-0 this year in starts against the Pirates, he’s posted an ERA of 3.00, and he hasn’t given up any more than three earned runs in each of his last four starts.
*All pitchers listed are probable
Pirates Players To Watch:
Russell Martin: Martin is hitting .429/.429/.500 over the last week, and has been a Cardinals killer this year, to the tune of .323/.400/.723 this year against the Redbirds.
Neil Walker: Much like Martin, the Pittsburgh kid is on fire, hitting .375/.422/.550 over the last two weeks, and ever since he came off the DL, he’s been lighting it up at the plate. Hopefully he stays hot as the Pirates try to maintain their first place position against the Cardinals.
Andrew Lambo: Lambo is likely to make his MLB debut at some point during the series, between AA Altoona and AAA Inidanapolis he’s hit thirty-one home runs, and driven in ninety-seven runs. Will he continue his torrid pace, and begin to solidify a position that’s been a revolving door for the Pirates all year?
Cardinals Players To Watch:
Matt Carpenter: Carpenter’s been tearing the cover off the ball for the last week, hitting .409/.435/.545, but he’s struggled mightily against the Pirates this year, batting .147/.231/.235 against Pittsburgh this year.
Matt Holliday: Holliday has been killing the ball over the last seven days he’s hitting .563/.667/.938, and he’s done well against the Bucs, hitting .357/.400/.405 in ten games this year. Pirates pitchers would be wise to work very carefully against him.
Tony Cruz/Rob Johnson: The two catchers that have been splitting time in the absence of Yadier Molina, and as expected there’s been a bit of a dropoff. Molina is expected back as soon as Thursday, but in the mean time the Pirates will look to take advantage of his absence.
The Cardinals have lost two consecutive series at home, but hold a record of 34-22 when playing at Busch Stadium on the season.
Gerrit Cole was originally scheduled to start for the first game of the series, but his start has been skipped to allow him some extra rest.
Starling Marte remains this series wild card, since being hit in the hand with a pitch against the Rockies over the weekend. X-rays came back negative, but at this point there’s no certainty as to how long he will be out with his injury.