Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates Face Upstart New York Mets


Coming off of a two game sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, the Pittsburgh Pirates (18-22) look to get the ball rolling against the surprising New York Mets (24-18), who just split four games with the National League Central leading Cardinals (27-14) who lead the Pirates by 8.5 games. The Mets scored only 9 runs in the entire four game set, including a 5-0 win on 5/21.

The Pirates enter the series losing six of their last seven games and are a disappointing 6-12 in the month of May. The Mets have also struggled recently, going 4-7 in their last 11. After a ten game winning streak sat them at 13-3, the Mets have gone just 11-15 since.

Both of these teams are the beneficiaries of fantastic pitching. The Mets are second only to the Cardinals (2.79) in team ERA at 3.13, while the Pirates are right behind them with a 3.26. The teams also rank in the top 5 when it comes to quality starts (25 for Mets, 24 for Pirates) and earned runs allowed (129 for Mets, 133 for Pirates).

Pitching Matchups:

Friday, 5/22, 7:05 PM RHP Gerrit Cole (5-2, 2.40 ERA) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-1, 3.18 ERA)

Saturday, 5/23, 4:05 PM RHP A.J. Burnett (3-1, 1.38 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (5-1, 1.98 ERA)

Sunday, 5/24, 1:35 PM RHP Francisco Liriano (1-4, 4.15 ERA) vs. Jon Niese (3-4, 3.72 ERA)

Pitching Matchup Analysis:

On Friday night, Gerrit Cole looks to rebound after a loss to the Cubs in his last outing, where he gave up seven hits over six innings but struck out eight batters. His opponent on the mound will be Noah Snydergaard, who has two starts to his name. After allowing 10 base-runners in just 5.1 innings pitched in a 6-1 loss to the Cubs, Snydergaard gave the Mets six innings of quality pitching, giving up only three hits, 1 run, and 1 walk while striking out six batters. When asked about what it’ll be like to pitch against Cole, Snydergaard told ESPN that “it’ll be exciting.”

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Saturday night features a dandy of a matchup, with two sub-two ERA’s on display in the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett (1.38 ERA) and the Mets’ Matt Harvey (1.98 ERA). Both pitchers have given their teams seven quality starts in their first eight outings, going a combined 8-2 in the first quarter of the season. Both the wily veteran Burnett (Age: 38) and the young star Harvey (Age: 26) average over seven strikeouts per nine innings (Burnett 7.44, Harvey 9.22).

The Sunday matinee pairs up two pitchers who have stumbled lately in Francisco Liriano for the Pirates and Johnathon Niese for the Mets. Both are coming off of their worst starts of the season (Liriano vs. Twins: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB; Niese vs. Cardinals: 5.0 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB) and will be looking intently to rectify their strong starts to the first few weeks of the season.

Now let’s look at how the Pirates Lineup has fared against the expected starters of the Mets:

Noah Snydergaard:

Since Snydergaard has literally two appearances in the major leagues, he has no big league match-ups with any of the Pirates. As the Pirates have seen other teams struggle against their youth, look for the Pirates to struggle greatly against a pitcher they have no history with.

Matt Harvey

Pedro Alvarez – 1/3, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 1 K, .333/.333/.667/1.000

Neil Walker –  N/A

Jordy Mercer – 0/3, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 0 Ks, .000/.000/.000/.000

Josh Harrison – N/A

Francisco Cervelli – N/A

Starling Marte – 0/3, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 K, .000/.250/.000/.250

Andrew McCutchen – 1/2, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 1 BB, 0 Ks, .500/.667/.500/1.167

Gregory Polanco – N/A

Jung Ho Kang – N/A

Sean Rodriguez – N/A

Corey Hart – N/A

Chris Stewart – 0/3, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 2 Ks, .000/.000/.000/.000

Jose Tabata – N/A

Again with Harvey as it was with Snydergaard, the Pirates have not seen a large sample size. No one currently in the lineup has more than four at bats against him. Look for it to be a typical outing when A.J. Burnett is on the mound, with the Pirates mustering up three to four runs at most and having to depend on the 38 year old to carry the team to a win in a pitching duel.

Johnathon Niese:

Pedro Alvarez – 0/4, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, .000/.200/.000/.200

Neil Walker –  2/10, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 Ks, .200/.273/.200/.473

Jordy Mercer – 2/6, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BBs, 0 Ks, .333/.333/.833/1.167

Josh Harrison – 3/9, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 Ks, .333/.400/.444/.844

Francisco Cervelli – N/A

Starling Marte – 2/7, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs, 0 BBs, 1 K, .286/.286/.286/.571

Andrew McCutchen – 5/13, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs, 2 BBs, 0 Ks, .385/.467/.615/1.082

Gregory Polanco – 0/4, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 2 Ks, .000/.000/.000/.000

Jung Ho Kang – N/A

Sean Rodriguez – N/A

Corey Hart – 2/10, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 Ks, .200/.273/.300/.573

Chris Stewart – 1/5, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 1 RBIs, 1 BBs, 0 Ks, .200/.333/.200/.533

Jose Tabata – 5/8, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 0 BBs, 0 Ks, .625/.625/1.250/1.875

The Pirates lineup has combined for nine extra base hits against Niese and a solid overall batting average of .288. The interesting part is the leader of these numbers is none other than recent call up Jose Tabata. Tabata has owned Niese, hitting .625 against him and collecting two doubles and a home run in just eight at bats against him. After hitting .352 and having an on-base percentage of .422 while in Triple-A Indianapolis, Tabata went 2/2 in his first game back in the big leagues. If given the chance to start, could this be a turning point in the season for a struggling club and a career of a struggling player?

Series Prediction: 

This will not be the series that the Pirates start getting into the groove of last year. The addition of hot hitting Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison‘s recent hitting (16-29 in last six games, hitting .514 since 5/10) will give the Pirates enough to steal one from the Mets, who will take the first two. The Pirates have done enough of a job not to get swept much, but when will they start mounting series victories again?

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