Aug 11, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) hits a single off of Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. St. Louis defeated Chicago 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates Vs. Cardinals Series Preview

Jul 26, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Cardinals 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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.

*Pitching Matchups:

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:

Aug 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin (55) drives in the game winning run with a single against the Miami Marlins during the tenth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-4 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Series Notes: 

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.

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Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Adam

    In the month of August, Neil Walker has an RBI in only two games (3 RBI total) and no home runs. How is he “lighting it up at the plate”? Nice batting average this month, but like just about the whole team, Walker is not driving in runs.

    • Campbell Sproul

      Walker usually hits out of the two hole, not often known as a spot to produce tons of RBI. He’s hitting for a high average, and has 5 XBH in the month so far as well.

    • Adam

      They might need to think about moving him to 5th in the order. Maybe he can do something with RISP, because no one else is. McCutchen, especially, is changing his entire approach with RISP and in the process becoming a truly awful hitter in those situations this year. Not even getting the bat off your shoulders? Embarrassing.

    • Campbell Sproul

      I’m not a believer in the whole w/RISP hitting deal. That’s a really small sample stat to evaluate a player on, particularly given that he’s driving in plenty of runs overall.

    • Adam

      The stats are there and the film is there: He is a different hitter this year with RISP. Look at last night: Just like in all his RISP at-bats in Colorado he went from waiting for a good pitch to hit (or walking when a good pitch never comes) to either seeming too nervous to swing at good pitches or too over-eager to lay off bad pitches. It’s a serious concern down the stretch, but not just with McCutchen. I don’t know why it’s such heresy for a Bucs fans to call out a team that needs to carry the same level-headed approach into every AB no matter the situation, especially their leader.

    • Campbell Sproul

      I don’t say it’s heresy, but have you ever noticed that the guys with high RISP batting averages have high averages in general too? It’s still the same at bat. The pitcher is still 60′ 6″ away, and the ball still comes in at the same speeds. This year with RISP McCutchen’s average is .285, 19 percentage points lower than his overall average. Negligible difference in numbers.

    • Adam

      Um, .969 OPS with bases empty, .755 with RISP, and .668 with RISP & two outs. Not a “negligible difference.” And your other point? Adam Jones: .733 OPS with bases empty, .842 with RISP. Jose Bautista: .849 OPS with bases empty, 1.032 with RISP. All I’m saying is that it is a disturbing trend for the pennant race that McCutchen, this year, is a much worse hitter with RISP.

    • Campbell Sproul

      He has 41 at bats with 2 outs and RISP, and you want to use that as a measurement to judge his whole season?

      You’re looking at stats with small sample sizes and using them to judge a player’s overall value, and that doesn’t work. We don’t look at a guy’s triple slash one week into the season and use that to determine how good he is, so why use a number covering only a week’s worth of regular at bats to do the same?

    • Adam

      The numbers I just used for Cutch and several comparable outfielders were numbers with RISP, not RISP and two out. Cutch has 123 AB with RISP and has an OPS 218 points lower in those situations. Only an absolute homer would look at those numbers and say “Yeah, but…” Cutch’s sharp decline with RISP has had a hugely negative effect on his team during this little (but disturbing) losing streak, and is a huge concern if it doesn’t change.

    • Campbell Sproul

      Let’s grant that he’s “bad w/RISP” for a second. Does that mean his top ten RBI total is just gravy? I understand your concern, but he’s produced for 115 games, so why would he stop now?

    • Adam

      Maybe it’s crazy, but I put less weight on runs driven in early in games and with no one on base. And in Cutch’s case, it’s downright eerie that 5 of his 17 HR have come with a guy on first, and the rest solo shots. It’s a Jekyl/Hyde thing with RISP for him this year, and that deeply concerns me down the stretch. Look how we walked Beltran & Craig with RISP last night but the Cards went right after Cutch in those situations, and his AB’s were just plain ugly.

      Has Cutch produced through 115 games? Sure, his numbers are nice and I’m beyond happy he’s on the team, but I look at other comparable stars of the game and see that this year they not only thrive with RISP, their stats get BETTER. Bautista, Jones, Davis, Trout, Molina, Craig.

      All I’m saying is that, for example, a first-inning HR does not absolve you of any responsibility to hit with men on base the rest of the game, especially a huge, close game. McCutchen has looked terrible with RISP lately, which is a big concern considering the mighty offenses of the two NL Central teams chasing us. Those guys thrive with RISP.

    • Campbell Sproul

      Fair enough. I’m perfectly fine with having a concern, but runs are runs, whenever you put them on the board. I understand being concerned with production in key situations, but 95% of the time, it’ something that evens out over time/at-bats, the good hitters start doing better in the clutch, and the bad ones regress to being the bad hitters they normally are.

    • Adam

      By the way, look at the other nine guys in the top ten for RBI in the NL. McCutchen’s numbers are by FAR the worst of the ten. Alvarez and Bruce have similar OPS’s with RISP, but both have a bunch of HR with RISP and Cutch has none. BA with RISP, to me, is huge, and is getting even more important as the pressure in this playoff race intensifies. Cutch has a lot of games left to turn it around in that situation, though.