Pittsburgh Pirates Head to Atlanta to Take on Braves
With a sweep of the San Francisco Giants in the books and an off day, the Pittsburgh Pirates sit at 29-24, a total swap from last year’s 24-29 start through 53 games. The sweep puts the Pirates past the Cubs (27-24) for second place in the NL Central, where they’re stellar play still has them six games back of the St. Louis Cardinals (35-18).
The Pirates, winners of 11 of their last 13 games, racked up 16 runs in the three wins, including seven in one game Tuesday night, a three run victory for the Bucs. Other occurrences of note: Gerritt Cole moved to 8-2 on Monday night’s 4-3 win, of which featured him scoring two runs off of Andrew McCutchen‘s sacrifice fly-outs. Speaking of Cutch, he’s improved his batting average up to .293, a far cry from the .185 clip he owned on May 5th. Also, Jordy Mercer homered in back to back games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Four of his 23 major league home runs have come at AT&T Park, where he has played 10 total games.
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They now turn their attention to the Atlanta Braves (26-27) who are fresh off of a series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Braves, third in the National League East, feature the highest bullpen ERA in the big leagues, at 4.81. This plays out well for the Pirates, who have been slugging at an impressive rate (.449) over their last 13 games. The Braves offense numbers rival the Pirates, as both teams are tied for sixth in runs scored in the NL, and the teams own similar batting averages (Pirates .253, Braves .252). Freddie Freeman leads them, hitting .299 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI’s, the latter two numbers being the team’s best.
Here now is a look at the pitching matchups forthcoming in this series.
Friday, 6/2, 7:35 PM RHP Charlie Morton (2-0, 1.93 ERA) vs. RHP Williams Perez (1-0, 2.66 ERA)
Saturday, 6/3, 7:10 PM LHP Jeff Locke (3-3, 5.34 ERA) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (4-2, 4.87 ERA)
Sunday, 6/4, 1:35 PM RHP Gerrit Cole (8-2, 1.90 ERA) vs. Alex Wood (4-2, 3.19 ERA)
Pitching Matchup Analysis
As shaky as Jeff Locke has been this season for the Pirates, he has had some impressive outings and is still only two short years removed from being an all-star. He’ll have a great chance to bounce back in the middle game of the series Saturday night against Julio Teheran, who is somehow 4-2 while owning an ERA barely south of five.
Locke’s start is sandwiched by Charlie Morton, who comes off of a start where he blew threw the last 11 batters he faced, and Gerritt Cole, who at 8-2 is looking every bit the ace he was projected to be when he was selected first overall in 2011 out of UCLA.
With these starting matchups, coupled with the huge disparity in how the bullpens have played for each team, and the Pirates have a definite edge on the mound all series long.
Now let’s take a look at how the Pirates batters have performed against the projected starters of the Braves.
Williams Perez has only five big league starts under his belt, and none of them have come against the Pirates.
Teheran has shut down the majority of the Bucco batters he has faced in his short career thus far, except for Andrew McCutchen. With Cutch on a tear, and the pitching being simply dominant lately (2.18 ERA over last 13 games) his efforts and a good night by another regular like Walker or Harrison may be well enough to earn the Pirates a victory.
The Pirates have little experience against Wood, who is just 24 with two years experience. It doesn’t help that the majority of the Pirates lineup is fairly young as well, with an average age of 27.2 overall.
The Pirates enter this series on a tear, while the Braves are flirting with .500. That being said, the Braves have a few hitters and arms that could steal a game in what appears to be as good an opportunity for a sweep. If the Pirates can get to the Braves bullpen before the sixth inning starts, they should be sitting in prime position to earn their third sweep in the last four series, something incredibly hard to do at this level. That’s why I see the Braves stealing one of the first two games of the series, either due to the occasional blackout of the Pirates offense that always seems right around the corner, or Charlie Morton’s first mediocre start since returning to the rotation.