Pittsburgh Pirates welcome return to PNC Park
By The Big Tuna
The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming out of the gate slower than molasses again this year going 1-4 in their first five games of the season.
After 3 hard fought loses in Cincinnati, the wheels came off yesterday against the Brewers. The Pirates got shut down by Jimmy Nelson in the 2nd game of the series. The same Jimmy Nelson that gave up 82 hits in 69 innings last year only allowed 2 hits in his season debut and the Bucs handed him a victory on a silver platter. Which is a big deal because victories for Jimmy Nelson aren’t exactly easy to come by. He had 2 last year.
Despite the slow start they have an opportunity to finish the tough road trip in quasi-respectable fashion if they can muster a win against the Brewers this afternoon. It won’t be easy as a very angry Kyle Lohse takes that mound for the Brewers with something to prove after getting absolutely shelled in his season opener and the Pirates are forced to strut out Casey Sadler.
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Sadler pitched two innings against the Brewers last year and gave up two runs, but he’s look fairly crisp in Spring Training. He has struck out eight batters in eight innings down in Bradenton while maintaining a .94 WHIP and holding opponents to a .194 batting average. If Sadler can keep the ball down in the zone he has a solid chance to have a respectable outing against a reeling Brewer offense.
As for the Pirate offense? Reeling is an understatement.
Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and newly signed Josh Harrison are hitting a combined 12 for 71 (.169) entering the final game of the road swing. Aside from McCutchen’s home run in the 8th inning in the season opener and Marte’s 437 foot blast in their sole victory, none of these players have been hitting the ball very hard.
The good news for the Pirate’s is that they get to return home after today’s game and bask in the friendly confines of PNC Park for the next 10 games. The bad news is the first series is against a red hot Detroit Tiger’s team.
Detroit is 5-0 to start the year and really…it hasn’t even been close. They have outscored their opponents 39-11 and currently have nine players batting over .300. NINE. The Pirates do have four players north of .300 after 5 games, but unfortunately Jeff Locke and Sean Rodriguez are two of them. They’re both 1 for 3.
As if scoring 8 runs a game wasn’t enough, the top of the rotation for the Tigers has been looking like Danny Almonte mowing down 12 year olds. They actually set an AL record for shutout innings to start a year. David Price, Anibal Sanchez, and Shane Green didn’t allow a run through 24 innings and combined for an ERA somewhere around 0.30 in the process.
Monday’s matchup will pit Garrit Cole against Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez carved through the Minnesota Twins four days ago to the tune of 6.2 innings pitched, 6 strikeouts, and no earned runs. Cole on the other hand had a fairly choppy outing against the Reds. It took him 93 pitches to get through five and his control wasn’t as sharp as he’d like it to be. Despite not having his best stuff he battled to keep the Pirates in the game only giving up 3 earned runs and ended up taking the no decision.
This will be the first time Cole pitches against the Tigers in his young career. (Good Luck Garrit) As for Sanchez he holds a career 2-4 record against the Pirates with a 3.41 ERA. So he’s certainly been beatable.
The Tigers can’t stay hot forever, but I don’t look for them to cool down too much at PNC park. Luckily we bypass David Price in this series and get Francisco Liriano back for the 3rd game. Slight advantage to the Pirates.
Pirates struggle against the Tigers and lose the series 1-2 but then power through the Brewers and Cubs to finish the home stand strong.