Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates Battle Last-Place Brewers


The Pittsburgh Pirates (31-25) keep on rolling. Winners of 13 of their last 16, the Buccos return home from a 7-3 road trip for a three game set with the lowly Milwaukee Brewers (20-37) that kicks off an eight game home stand. The streaky play by the Pirates has them sitting in second place in the National League Central, where they trail the St. Louis Cardinals (37-19) by six games. Meanwhile, the Brewers are the bottom-dwellers and have fallen 17.5 game off of the pace of the Cardinals.

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The Pirates have continued to thrive off of excellent pitching. Gerritt Cole now leads the National League in wins (9-2, 1.73 ERA) after a seven inning, six hit performance in a 3-0 win in the rubber match with the Atlanta Braves, which the Pirates took two of three from.

But what has really propelled the team is the lineup, lead by catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, as well as center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Cervelli and Stewart, who help guide the second best pitching staff in the National League in terms of ERA (trailing only those pesky Cardinals) have also contributed with bats in hand, hitting a combined .320 (66-206) with 14 doubles and 22 RBIs. Cervelli himself is hitting .450 over the last seven days. McCutchen has turned on the burners since starting May with a .185 average. His 9-19 start in June (.474) has his average up to .287.

The Brewers, Major League Baseball’s worst team in terms of record, have had a myriad of injury troubles early on. Statistically, the Brewers show their colors: they’re 29th out of 30 teams in team ERA (4.47) and 28th in quality starts (21). The offense has been equally as mediocre, ranking 26th in runs (212, or 3.72 per game), 29th in on-base percentage (.287), and dead last in team batting average (.233).

Here now is a look at the projected pitching matchups for the upcoming series.

Monday, 6/8, 7:05 PM  RHP A.J. Burnett (6-1, 2.20 ERA) vs. RHP Jimmy Nelson (2-6, 4.41 ERA)

Tuesday, 6/9, 7:05 PM RHP Francisco Liriano (3-4, 3.24 ERA) vs. TBA

Wednesday, 6/10, 7:05 PM RHP Charlie Morton (3-0, 2.84 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (3-6, 6.59 ERA)

Pitching Matchup Analysis

As aforementioned, the heart of this Pirates team is its pitching staff. While A.J Burnett and Charlie Morton are both coming off of shaky starts, the lineup has carried them to victory. With a hapless Brewers lineup coming into town, a prime opportunity is at hand for both Burnett and Morton to find their groove heading towards the all-star break. Francisco Liriano is coming off of a few solid starts, and if the Pirates can find some consistency out of him, this club becomes that much harder to beat.

While Tuesday’s starter has not yet been announced for the Brewers, the other two starters have both really struggled coming into this series. With the Pirates lighting up opposing pitchers lately, mismatches abound in the Pirates favor heading into Monday night.

Speaking of the Pirates’ lineup, let us now look to see how they have performed against Jimmy Nelson and Kyle Lohse. 

Jimmy Nelson

Josh Harrison661000103.
Pedro Alvarez540000012.
Francisco Cervelli531000001.333.600.333.933
Starling Marte542000011.500.600.5001.100
Neil Walker330000001.
Corey Hart220000000.
Jung Ho Kang220000002.
Andrew McCutchen221100100.500.5001.0001.500
Jordy Mercer220000000.
Gregory Polanco221000000.500.500.5001.000
Sean Rodriguez221000100.500.500.5001.000

Kyle Lohse

Andrew McCutchen5145143031142.311.353.578.931
Neil Walker463912311979.308.413.513.926
Pedro Alvarez414093014113.225.244.375.619
Jose Tabata393615211523.417.447.6111.058
Corey Hart26265300105.192.192.308.500
Starling Marte18165001515.313.389.500.889
Jordy Mercer15154001102.267.267.467.733
Josh Harrison11103100100.300.273.400.673
Gregory Polanco653200211.600.6671.0001.667
Francisco Cervelli331000002.333.333.333.667
Jung Ho Kang331000000.333.333.333.667
Sean Rodriguez220000000.

While Nelson has struggled this season, he has done an admirable job against the Pirates, limiting them to a .194 average and only 1 extra base hit, a double by Andrew McCutchen. Nelson will have to be on his game against A.J Burnett, who is having one of his best seasons in what will be his last, according to the 38 year old veteran.

With a hapless Brewers lineup coming into town, a prime opportunity is at hand for both Burnett and Morton to find their groove heading towards the all-star break.

The Pirates have fared much better against Lohse, a 36 year old. Led by Andrew McCutchen, the Bucs have compiled 27 extra base hits against the right handed starter.

Series Prediction

This is about as lopsided as it gets coming in: the Pirates are on a surge and don’t look like they’re slowing down anytime soon. The Brewers are a team in shambles that doesn’t seem to have much direction at the moment. If this series was played on paper, it’d be a clean sweep for the Buccos, without question. What makes baseball, and sports in general, so alluring is that anything can and usually will happen. I often try to stay away from predicting sweeps for this reason, but this is as good a series as any for the Pirates to pick up three wins and put more pressure on those all-to consistent Cardinals.

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