The Pittsburgh Pirates (21-22) conclude an eight-game home stand starting tonight, as the Miami Marlins (18-27) travel to PNC Park for a three-game series. The Pirates are coming off of a sweep of the Mets (24-21) in which all three Bucco starters struck out 10+ batters (Gerrit Cole – 10; A.J. Burnett – 10; Francisco Liriano – 12) for the first time since 1969. The bats also saw a sort of awakening, as the club scored 21 runs over the three-game set.
The Miami Marlins enter winners of two in a row over the Baltimore Orioles (19-22). The series win over the O’s marked the end to a stretch in which the Marlins had lost eight in a row, and 11 of their last 12.
Though the Marlins have been losing at a rapid rate, the team features an offense with the weapons that make them potentially explosive at any time. Led by Dodgers’ defector Dee Gordon and his MLB-leading .376 batting average, the Marlins rank fifth in the National League with a .260 batting average overall.
Along with Gordon’s dominance, certified slugger Giancarlo Stanton has picked up his power numbers from where he left off after being hit in the face with a pitch last season. He is tied for fourth in the majors with 12 home runs through the first quarter of the season, though his average is down to .228, as he has been hurt by a current 3-30 stretch. In addition, Marlins’ third baseman Martin Prado has hit safely in seven straight games, and 17 of the 21 the Marlins have played this month, and owns a nine-game hitting streak against the Pirates.
To combat the Marlins’ offense, the Pirates will throw out Charlie Morton for this first time this season. The injury-plagued starter comes off of 21 1/3 innings of work in AA/AAA where he allowed just three runs and struck out 22. Over the last two seasons, he’s carded a 13-16 record. At PNC Park during that stretch, he’s 6-6 with a 2.89 ERA. Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole will follow Morton in the final two games of the series.
The lineup set to support him has also found some life as of late. Third baseman Josh Harrison has been batting .468 during an 11-game hitting streak, and superstar Andrew McCutchen has gone 9 for his last 15 (.600 BA) with three long balls and two doubles in his last four games. The best part is that both players have owned the Marlins, with Harrison going 10-22 lifetime against them and Cutch hitting .438 since 2012 against them. The Pirates have won eight of the last nine games played against the Marlins at PNC Park.
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Tuesday, 5/26, 7:05 PM – LHP Jeff Locke (2-2, 5.28 ERA) vs. TBD
Wednesday, 5/27, 12:35 PM – RHP Gerrit Cole (6-2, 2.05 ERA) vs. TBD
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Pitching Matchup Analysis:
The Memorial Day matchup brings with it a great deal of intrigue, as the Pirates throw out Charlie Morton for the first time all season. The veteran looked impressive in just over 21 innings of rehab work, but can he hit the ground running for a team that seems to be heating up with the weather?
The other side is David Phelps, who has been a bright spot in a poor pitching staff in Miami that ranks 10th in the National League in team ERA and batting average against. The Pirates’ lineup feasted on the talented arms of the Mets, including ace Matt Harvey. Will that momentum continue in the friendly confines of PNC Park?
Let’s take a look at how the Pirates’ lineup has fared in prior match-ups with the Marlins’ projected starters:
Pedro Alvarez – 0/3, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 1 K, .000/.000/.000/.000
Neil Walker – 0/2, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 K, .000/.333/.000/.333
Jordy Mercer – 1/2, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 1 K, .500/.500/.500/1.000
Josh Harrison – N/A
Francisco Cervelli – N/A
Starling Marte – 1/1, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 0 Ks, 1.000/1.000/1.000/2.000
Andrew McCutchen – 0/2, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 1 BB, 0 Ks, .000/.333/.000/.333
Gregory Polanco – N/A
Jung Ho Kang – N/A
Sean Rodriguez – 1/4, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 0 BBs, 1 K, .250/.250/.250/.500
Corey Hart – N/A
Chris Stewart – N/A
Jose Tabata – 1/3, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 BBs, 0 Ks, .333/.333/.333/.667
The Pirates haven’t seen a whole lot of the third year starter Phelps thus far, going just 5-19 combined against him with no extra base hits. He is considered the ace of the Marlins staff right now, so expect this to be the best chance the Marlins have to steal one from the Pirates in this series.
Due to the injuries of Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart, and Henderson Alvarez, and their recent placement on the 15-day disabled list, the Marlins have yet to announce who will start the next two contests for them against the Pirates. They will likely call up arms from their farm system, or simply use arms from their bullpen.
The lineup set to support [Morton] has also found some life. Third baseman Josh Harrison has been batting .468 during an 11-game hitting streak, and superstar Andrew McCutchen has gone 9 for his last 15 (.600 BA) with three long balls and two doubles in his last four games.
With an injured and depleted Marlins team coming to town, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an absolutely perfect opportunity for a second consecutive sweep that could get them back to within five games of the first place St. Louis Cardinals (28-16). It would be incredibly surprising if the Pirates did not take at least two from the floundering Marlins with all of the above factors considered. The one variable is the two possible starters that will either come from the bullpen or the minors for the Marlins. There is always the chance that with no prior preparation or experience against an arm, Pirate batters have the chance of being off-balance and out of their element. Still, expect a series win for the Pirates in the end of their homestand.