Up Next for Pirates: The Detroit Tigers


Despite a 2-1 loss in the series finale, the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to secure two out of a possible three victories over the weekend at home against the Atlanta Braves. After a ten inning, walk off 3-2 win Friday night and an impressive 8-4 victory on Saturday night, the Bucs take their act to Detroit to face the Tigers, the third place team in the American League Central with a 39-36 record. They trail the American League-leading Kansas City Royals by six games, and a wild card spot by 1.5 games.

Over the past seven days, the Pirates have a 4.64 ERA overall while opponents have batted .300 against them.

The Tigers enter the series also winning their last set two games to one, in defeating the Chicago White Sox. They sport the best team batting average and on base percentage in all of baseball at .276 and .335, respectively. They’re led by first baseman and former triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who has posted a .350 average with 15 home runs and 53 RBI through 73 games. Cabrera also has a 3.9 wins above replacement rating, good for third in the American League. Right fielder J.D. Martinez has also produced at a high level for the Tigers, belting 19 home runs, which is good for second in the American League.

The Pirates enter as the second place team in the National League Central, owning a 42-33 record through 75 games. They trail the best team in all of baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, who sit at 50-24, and are the first wild card team in the NL playoff race.

While the Bucs have the second best earned run average in the majors at 2.92, the pitching has struggled over the past week, where the Pirates have gone 3-6 after rattling off eight wins in a row. Over the past seven days, the Pirates have a 4.64 ERA overall while opponents have batted .300 against them.

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The story of this series going in is the dynamic batting of the Tigers matching up with an incredibly talented pitching staff for the Pirates that has been in a slump for the past week.

Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups for the two teams:

Tuesday, 6/30, 7:08 PM – RHP Gerritt Cole (11-3, 2.16 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (0-1, 6.17 ERA)

Wednesday, 7/1, 7:08 PM – RHP A.J. Burnett (6-3, 2.01 ERA) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (7-4, 3.57 ERA)

Thursday, 7/2, 1:08 PM – LHP Francisco Liriano (4-6, 3.21 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-7, 4.63 ERA)

Pitching Match-Up Analysis:

A quick way to get out of a slump as a team is to go into a series with your top three pitchers due up. This is what the Pirates have planned for the upcoming series with the Tigers, and it could just be what they need to get rolling again. The interesting note here is Justin Verlander returning to the mound for the Tigers after missing his last start with back stiffness. An arm problem kept him out for most of this season thus far. Verlander is 69-37 since 2011, which happened to be the season he went 24-5 and took home both the AL Cy Young and MVP honors.

Let’s take a look at how the Pirate batters have fared against these Tigers’ starting pitchers:

Justin Verlander

Andrew McCutchen16132200223.154.250.308.558
Neil Walker12102110123.200.333.500.833
Pedro Alvarez10101000006.
Josh Harrison10102000001.
Sean Rodriguez772200002.286.286.571.857
Francisco Cervelli331100100.333.333.6671.000
Chris Stewart320000002.000.333.000.333
Starling Marte1110103001.0001.0003.0004.000
Jordy Mercer1110000001.0001.0001.0002.000
Gregory Polanco1000000101.000
Jose Tabata110000001.

Justin Verlander is one of the premier pitching talents in the league. With that being true, it is no surprise that the Pirates have struggled in the limited action they have seen against Verlander. One thing of note: eight of the 12 hits the Pirates have off of Verlander have gone for extra bases. When they get a hit off of him, it seems to cost him. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues Tuesday night.

Alfredo Simon

Andrew McCutchen28226001155.273.429.409.838
Starling Marte27236100213.261.370.304.675
Neil Walker22204001524.200.273.350.623
Jordy Mercer19173001213.176.263.353.616
Josh Harrison17164100003.250.294.313.607
Pedro Alvarez16131100031.
Sean Rodriguez994200001.444.444.6671.111
Gregory Polanco761000110.
Francisco Cervelli660000001.
Chris Stewart551000001.
Jose Tabata541000010.250.400.250.650

Simon spent the past three seasons with the Reds before coming to Detroit, thus the Pirates have a bit of a track record against him. While the Bucs have made some contact against Simon, they’ve had little power numbers against him.

Anibal Sanchez

Andrew McCutchen19164000417.
Neil Walker18174101114.235.278.471.74800000
Pedro Alvarez15155202606.333.333.8671.20000000
Jordy Mercer983100102.375.375.500.87510000
Starling Marte771000003.
Sean Rodriguez761000001.
Josh Harrison662001100.333.333.8331.16700000
Jose Tabata661100001.167.167.333.50000000
Francisco Cervelli331000001.333.333.333.66700000
Gregory Polanco331100001.333.333.6671.00000000

The story here is Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates’ first baseman has a .333 career mark in 15 at-bats against Sanchez, including two home runs. The Pirates lack in the power department, ranking 26th in the majors in home runs.

Series Prediction:

The pitching started to turn around for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the series with the Braves, but the bats still seem dormant for two out of every three games that the team plays. For instance, they scored just 11 runs in the three-game set against Atlanta, and eight of those came on one night. The Pirates have a great thing going on the mound, and the defense has been solid. But until the Pirates can string together a legitimate offense, they’ll drop games against playoff worthy teams like this, and even worse, will be nothing more than a wild card worthy team.

Prediction: Pirates drop two of three, fall to 43-35

Next: What should the Pirates do with Gregory Polanco?