Pirates vs. Marlins, Starting Pitcher Preview


The Pirates are in Florida to play a two game set with the new look Miami Marlins after bringing their record to 16-18 with a 5-4 home stand. The schedule has been brutal, and the Marlins are no easy opponent.

After struggling through an 8-14 month of April, the Marlins have found their stride. Miami started the month of May with seven straight wins and have a record of 10-2 in their 12 May games. The offseason additions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell are getting it together and the bats of Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, and Omar Infante have made this team one of the best in the league recently.

The Marlins offense hasn’t been great this season, with a team batting average of .236, although that has been rising this month. The main reason for their hot May is the pitching, so we should see a couple of low scoring games. Let’s take a closer look at the two match ups.

Monday: Brad Lincoln (2-0, 0.63) vs. Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 2.01)
This is an interesting grouping of pitchers. Sanchez seems to be over performing this year with an ERA that is a run and a half better than this career number. He has gotten a bunch of strikeouts early on, averaging 10.3 per nine. He’s kept the walks down at 2.5 per nine and hasn’t been on the wrong side of a decision yet. For his career batters hit .250 off of him, this year that’s down to .205. It’s hard for me to tell if Sanchez is indeed just underperforming or if he’s turned a corner at the age of 28. Remember, this is a guy that threw a no hitter in 2006. He’s been in the league for awhile, and you’d think any hot streak would be just that – a streak. We’ll see what he looks like tonight.

The Pirates counter with Brad Lincoln. Erik Bedard was the scheduled starter but he needs a few more days off after suffering those back spasms, so Lincoln is making a spot start out of the bullpen. Lincoln has been phenomenal out of the pen, giving up just one run in 14.1 innings. Batters are hitting just .180 off of him, and righties have just five hits in 28 at bats (.179). That should all make you feel pretty good about this guy throwing some innings tonight, however you have to be a little bit concerned about how he’ll transition to starting. His worst pitch is the change up, and he hasn’t had to throw it much coming out of the bullpen. On the year he has thrown his four seam fastball 93 times, his curve 63 times, his two seamer 14 times and the change up just three times. There’s a reason for that, it’s not a good pitch. In a starting role, he’s going to have to throw it, he doesn’t have much of a choice. If he doesn’t fool the hitter, it’s going to get hit pretty hard. The Marlins have a big time bat in Stanton and a guys in Reyes and Morrison that can hurt you, so Lincoln is going to have to be careful. If he can get ahead of guys early and stay efficient, he could keep up the success he had coming out of the bullpen, but I’m not going to lie and say I’m not a bit concerned.

Tuesday: Kevin Correia (1-3, 3.47) vs. Josh Johnson (0-3, 5.87)
Josh Johnson missed a ton of time in 2010 due to injury and was expected to be a have a huge bounce back year in 2012. He has had a horrible start to the year despite having some seriously scary stuff. He’s given up five or more earned runs in three of his seven starts and has only pitched six innings four times. His last start was encouraging as he threw seven innings while giving up two runs and striking out six against the Astros. The Pirates have just the offense to make him look like a Cy Young again. Batters are hitting .329 off of him this year, but the Pirates are hitting .222 as a team. Something’s gotta give. Chances are Johnson will go six or seven strong innings allowing less than three runs and striking out eight or more. The Pirates are going to have to pitch well to win this one.

They are sending Kevin Correia to the hill for another start. Correia hasn’t been good this year despite that 3.47 ERA. He has been decent at limiting damage and he actually held the Nationals scoreless through five innings in his last start before giving up two home runs in the sixth and losing the game because of it. He doesn’t strike guys out, so the Marlins are going to have a lot of balls in play. The Pirates will have to be the beneficiaries of some good luck and play good defense to keep it a low scoring game. Correia is at the point where any start could be his last, and he’ll have to pitch a good game to be considered for a major league job when Jeff Karstens returns.

It should be a fun series to watch. The Marlins have a brand new ballpark, and a unique one at that. That thing they have in centerfield creeps me out, and I hope there are no Marlins home runs in this series just because I don’t wanna see it light up. If the Pirates can manage a quick two game sweep they’ll be at 18-18 heading to D.C.