Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates take on World Series Champion San Francisco Giants


With a split of a four-game series with the San Diego Padres in the books, the Pittsburgh Pirates (26-24) now turn their attention to their next task: taking revenge on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. That team happens to be the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants (30-22), who also just split a four-game series, of which was with the Atlanta Braves.

The aforementioned playoff duel came back on the first day of October in 2014, when Madison Bumgarner and the Giants shut out the Pirates 8-0 en route to a World Series run, their third title in six years.

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Fast forward eight months exactly, and the first day of June in 2015 lends the Bucs an opportunity to storm into AT&T Park in San Francisco and extract revenge on the defending champions. Pittsburgh enters winning eight of its last ten contests, hitting .292 as a club, including catcher Francisco Cervelli‘s .449 average over his last 15 games and center fielder Andrew McCutchen‘s .450 average in his last 11. Cutch, though hot lately, is a .221 career hitter in 19 games at AT&T Park.

Both teams come in playing great baseball. The Pirates had won six in a row until their split with the Padres, while the Giants posted a 21-9 record in May. The Giants lead the National League with a .272 batting average, while the Pirates’ 3.04 ERA is second in all of baseball only to the National League Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, which the Pirates trail by seven games entering Monday. The match-up of the heavy hitting Giants and the pitching-rich Pirates is as enticing as they come.

The Pirates and Giants have split the 32 games played between the two since 2010, including the wild card game last October. Let’s now look at the pitching matchups for this series.

Fast forward eight months exactly, and the first day of June in 2015 lends the Bucs an opportunity to storm into AT&T Park in San Francisco and extract revenge on the defending champions.

Monday, 6/1, 10:15 PM – RHP Gerrit Cole (7-2, 2.11 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (4-2, 4.24 ERA)

Tuesday, 6/2, 10:15 PM – RHP A.J. Burnett (5-1, 1.81 ERA)  vs. RHP Chris Heston (5-3, 3.82 ERA)

Wednesday, 6/3, 3:45 PM – RHP Francisco Liriano (2-4, 3.47 ERA) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (3-4, 4.62 ERA)

Pitching Matchup Analysis: 

While Gerritt Cole has been a force to be reckoned with and can keep pace for the top spot in the NL in wins, Ryan Vogelsong is coming off a stellar month of May. The former Pirate went 4-0 with an ERA of 1.14 and looks to keep that going in Monday night’s contest opposite Cole. What’s a shame is that Vogelsong, at 37 years young, isn’t facing off against A.J. Burnett, who is one year his elder and went 5-0 in May himself.

Burnett will meet Chris Heston in Tuesday night’s game. Heston has been solid for the Giants, but has already given up five or more runs four times in his first ten starts, including twice against the woeful Colorado Rockies. Burnett has been almost perfect thus far, but is coming off a game where the Pirates scored 11 and masked his giving up ten base-runners and four earned runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Padres.

The daytime match pits Francisco Liriano and Tim Hudson against each other. Liriano has been hit or miss, while Hudson has given up three or more runs in seven of his ten starts this season, which could just be enough if Liriano brings his stuff to AT&T Park.

Now let’s take a look at the stats for all the batters who have faced the expected starters of the Giants.

Ryan Vogelsong:

Neil Walker16167400300.438.438.6881.125
Andrew McCutchen15143000014.
Pedro Alvarez14132100217.
Jose Tabata990000001.
Corey Hart321010010.500.6671.5002.167
Jordy Mercer320000000.000.333.000.333
Chris Stewart210000010.000.500.000.500

The veteran Vogelsong has the Pirates figured out up to this point, excluding second baseman Neil Walker, who has a .438 average and four doubles in 16 appearances against Vogelsong.

Chris Heston:

Heston, who is 27 and came into this season with three career big league appearances totaling 5 1/3 innings, has never faced the Pittsburgh Pirates to this point.

Tim Hudson

Corey Hart28267200125.269.321.346.668
Andrew McCutchen23193100132.158.304.211.515
Neil Walker18165110013.313.389.500.889
Pedro Alvarez15134101323.308.400.6151.015
Jose Tabata983100310.375.444.500.944
Josh Harrison871001111.143.250.571.821
Jordy Mercer661010000.167.167.500.667
Sean Rodriguez661100001.167.167.333.500
Starling Marte442010001.500.5001.0001.500
Gregory Polanco330000000.

Four Pirates have hit over .300 against Hudson for their careers thus far, but has held third baseman Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen to a combined 4-31 (.129) clip.

Series Prediction: 

With how well these two teams played in May, this series figures to be a treat for fans of baseball everywhere, headlined by Monday night’s pitching matchup of Cole and Vogelsong, both of which are on fire. The Giants have the edge after their blistering May, and should be expected to take the series two games to one. They are the defending champions for a reason, and play well at home (16-11 this season).

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