For the second straight series, the Pittsburgh Pirates will face Major League Baseball’s worst team when the Philadelphia Phillies come to play at PNC Park Friday night. The series follows one that saw the Pirates (32-27) drop two of three to the lowly Milwaukee Brewers (22-38) who held the moniker of the MLB’s worst team until the series win over the Bucs.
The series saw the Pirates squander two quality starts by A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano before the offense could muster up enough to support an impressive outing by Charlie Morton. Overall, the club scored just three runs in the series loss. While the offense has no doubt gotten far better, they’re still not taking full enough advantage of the pitching staff that owns the second best ERA in the big leagues (2.97). The Pirates feature three of the National League leaders in ERA, with Gerritt Cole’s 1.73, Charlie Morton’s 2.05, and A.J. Burnett’s 2.11.
The offense hasn’t been terrible, though. The Pirates rank right in the middle of the pack in the National League in runs scored (244), team batting average (.254), and total hits (513). But dropping two of three due to a lack of run production won’t do the Pirates any favors in their attempts to catch the St. Louis Cardinals (39-21), who the Pirates and Chicago Cubs (31-26) trail in the National League’s Central division by 6.5 games a piece.
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Meanwhile, the Phillies (22-39) come in winning just three of their last 13 games, the latest losses coming from a sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. For as much as the Pirates have struggled to score runs, their cross-state foes have been dismal, scoring just 194 runs, good for last in the majors, and a not-so-sparkling average of 3.18 runs per game. They are also dead last in home runs (36) and total bases (725).
The pitching staff has also struggled for the punch-less Phillies, who rank 28th in both ERA (4.30) and batting average against (.268), even though starting pitchers Aaron Harang (4-7, 3.04 ERA) and Cole Hamels (5-5, 3.19 ERA) have put up good numbers individually. The duo has provided the Phillies with 19 quality starts in their 26 starts. The rest of their pitching staff has a combined 10 quality starts.
While Hamels is seemingly always discussed at the trade deadline, the Phillies are being vocal about a potential deal, and the Pirates have been mentioned numerous times, with names like Jeff Locke and Gregory Polanco thrown around as potential trade pieces.
Here now is a look at the impending pitching matchups in the upcoming series.
Friday, 6/12, 7:05 PM LHP Jeff Locke (3-3, 5.37 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Saturday, 6/13, 4:05 PM RHP Gerritt Cole (9-2, 1.73 ERA) vs. RHP Sean O’Sullivan (1-4, 4.96 ERA)
Sunday, 6/14, 1:35 PM RHP A.J. Burnett (6-2, 2.11 ERA) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (5-5, 3.19 ERA)
Pitching Matchup Analysis
A familiar face will be in PNC Park Friday night, as Kevin Correia will take the mound for the Phillies. Correia spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons as a member of the Pirates pitching staff, making 59 appearances, including 54 starts, posting a 24-22 record and a 4.49 ERA.
The second night provides what appears to be a mismatch, as a young Sean O’Sullivan tries to hang with early Cy Young candidate Gerritt Cole, who is starting to gain notoriety and recognition as the ace he was expected to become.
The closing game of the series provides the most appealing pitching matchup, with A.J Burnett taking the bump against Cole Hamels, who has been talked about as a possible trade option to, you guessed it, the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Hamels is seemingly always discussed at the trade deadline, the Phillies are being vocal about a potential deal, and the Pirates have been mentioned numerous times, with names like Jeff Locke and Gregory Polanco thrown around as potential trade pieces. Sunday’s matinee game will give Pirate fans a great chance to evaluate Hamels.
Now let’s look at how the Pirates have performed against the projected starters for the Phillies.
With the majority of the Pirates roster being young, coupled with Correia spending 2011 and 2012 with the Pirates, not many of the current Buccos have faced the veteran. Though he has been a non-factor this season, Corey Hart has done exceptionally well, as has Pedro Alvarez in limited at bats.
Sullivan faced the Pirates on May 12th, going 5.0 innings and surrendering five hits, walking one, and three runs off of a Josh Harrison three-run blast. With the offense of the Pirates trending in the right direction in spite of that stagnant series against the Brewers, the Bucs have a favorable shot at roughing up O’Sullivan again this time out.
Cole Hamels, being the star that he is, hasn’t yielded much to the Pirates lineup in his career. Don’t expect that to change Sunday, which looks to be your typical pitchers duel between Hamels and A.J. Burnett.
The first time the Pirates and Phillies met this season, they split a four game set, thanks to Hamels and Harang. The Pirates limited the Phillies to just 12 runs over the four games, but again the offense couldn’t pull through. That could very well happen again when the Pirates face Hamels in the finale of the series Sunday afternoon. With all things considered, the Pirates should take two of the three games against the league’s worst team, pushing them to 34-28.