Pittsburgh Pirates return home to face Reds


The Pittsburgh Pirates (39-30) couldn’t ask for a better time to have an off day before coming back home to PNC Park. After reeling off eight straight wins and winning 21 of their last 26 games going into the weekend, the Washington Nationals laid the boom down on the Bucs. A three game sweep where the Nats outscored the Bucs 19-3, including a nine run first inning in the first contest, left a sour taste in the team’s mouth after what had been a stellar stretch. With the three consecutive losses, the Pirates fall back to six games behind the division leading St. Louis Cardinals (45-24) and one game ahead of the third place Chicago Cubs (37-30).

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The sparkling numbers and reputation of the starting pitching for the Pirates took a hit over the weekend, with A.J. Burnett giving up a career high 14 hits over just under seven innings of work and Charlie Morton giving up nine earned runs in just under one inning of work. Couple that with an offense that produced just 14 hits in three games and you have a weekend to forget.

The challenge for the club is to see how quickly they can turn the page and refocus. The Cincinnati Reds (32-36) come to town for the second time this season, with the first time resulting in an opening series sweep to start the season. The Reds have won five of six meetings between the two teams overall, and come into the series having won four of six games, winning series against the Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers.

The Reds will be without the services of Johnny Cueto (4-4, 2.98 ERA) who has done incredibly well against the Pirates, owning an 18-4 record and a 2.13 ERA in 28 appearances.

Reds slugger Jay Bruce comes into the series hitting 10 for his last 20 with two home runs in his last five contests. Todd Frazier has gone 9 for 24 with four home runs and six RBI in the six games between the two clubs.

Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups for the Pirates and Reds this series. 

Tuesday, 6/23, 7:05 PM  LHP Jeff Locke (4-3, 4.74 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Smith (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Wednesday, 6/23, 7:05 PM RHP Gerrit Cole (11-2, 1.78 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Leake (4-4, 4.01 ERA)

Thursday, 6/24, 7:05 PM RHP A.J. Burnett (6-3, 2.05 ERA) vs. RHP Anthony DeSclafani (5-5, 3.48 ERA)

Pitching Matchup Analysis

The Reds will be without the services of Johnny Cueto (4-4, 2.98 ERA) who has done incredibly well against the Pirates, owning an 18-4 record and a 2.13 ERA in 28 appearances. In his place will be Josh Smith, who will be making his major league debut. The Reds simply pushed his start back to give the right handed starter extra rest, with no medical reasons given. The Pirates counter with Jeff Locke, who looks to continue to solidify his hold on the fifth spot as the all-star break and trade deadline come closer each day. Pittsburgh also gets their ace back on the mound for this series, as Gerrit Cole looks to push his National League-leading 11 wins to 12. A.J. Burnett looks to rebound after his mediocre outing against the Nationals over the weekend.

Now let’s take a look at how the batters for the Pirates have done against the expected starting pitchers for the Reds. 

Josh Smith

With this being Smith’s debut, it will be the first time the Pirates see the 27 year old out of Lipscomb University.

Mike Leake 

Andrew McCutchen6861151026412.246.324.361.68400030
Neil Walker5746124011287.261.368.413.78102014
Pedro Alvarez4842103001610.238.333.310.64300002
Starling Marte32306101109.200.250.333.58300021
Jose Tabata28268210123.308.357.462.81900003
Josh Harrison23216101111.286.348.476.82400010
Jordy Mercer18145100121.357.412.429.84011200
Gregory Polanco1191000122.
Francisco Cervelli882100103.250.250.375.62500000
Corey Hart884100001.500.500.6251.12500000
Chris Stewart441000000.
Jung Ho Kang331000000.333.333.333.66700000

The Pirates have seen a great deal of Leake over the years, and the numbers show average production. The only batter that has really done outstanding against him is currently the most polarizing player in baseball not named Alex Rodriguez: Jose Tabata. Tabata has hit .308 against Leake, drawn two walks, and hit three extra base hits against him. Tabata has been getting more playing time lately, and should be in the lineup against Leake.

Anthony DeSclafani 

Pedro Alvarez663101201.500.5001.1671.66700000
Josh Harrison650000001.
Starling Marte640000111.
Andrew McCutchen641100020.250.500.5001.00000000
Jordy Mercer662000000.333.333.333.66700000
Gregory Polanco653100110.600.667.8001.46700000
Neil Walker652000111.400.500.400.90000000
Chris Stewart221000000.500.500.5001.00000000

With DeSclafani only being in the bigs for a year, the Pirates haven’t gotten a great feel for the young starter. The only thing of note here is Pedro’s power against the pitcher. Alvarez is 3-6 against DeSclafani, with a home run and a double.

Series Prediction

I honestly think this series is huge for the Pirates. Not only do they have to rebound after getting pummeled in Washington D.C., but they have to do it against a team that has given them a tough time since the Pirates become relevant again. It will really show the maturity (or lack of) in the clubhouse of the Bucs as they try to win a series against a rival after a rough weekend and the Cardinals gaining two games in the division. Expect the Bucs to come out with intensity, and the runs in this series to be at a premium.

Predicition: Pirates take two of three, improve to 41-31

Next: Is starting pitching a need for the Pirates?