Pittsburgh Pirates Wake-Up Call – The most important series of the year (again)


Welcome to the Wake-Up Call, a new daily feature here at RumBunter.com. Every morning at 9 AM, one of us will give you our random thoughts on the goings-on around the Pirates’ organization, and we’ll throw a few links to some good articles from around the web concerning our baseball team. 

Assault on the Arch

Yes, red-hot Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the most important series of the year. Until the next Cardinals series anyway. The teams come in evenly matched in many ways. The Pirates have gone 7-3 in their last 10. So have the Cardinals. The Pirates love home cooking (39-18). So do the Cardinals (40-16). The Bucs and Cards feature the top two closers in baseball in terms of saves with Mark Melancon and Trevor Rosenthal, respectively.

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To me, it’s very reminiscent of those scenes in movies or television where two combatants fight each other so fiercely that they are headed for a stalemate until something epic happens to push things one way or the other. We all know these tried and true cliches – think Rocky Balboa going the distance in the first Rocky movie – but the difference here is that we have already had our epic moment yet still look up at the redbirds. After taking three of four against St. Louis right before the all-star break, the Pirates have gone a respectable 12-9, while the Cards have been a tick better at 15-7. We’ll save the nuts and bolts analysis for our in-depth series preview (coming later today), but it’s easy to say the Pirates are seeing the Cards at the right time. The Pirates offense has scored 31 runs in the past four games. Plus, this fact – even though fans may be nervous about it – Jeff Locke goes in game one, and the Cardinals hit only .234 against LHP. Oh, and they’ll have to face two southpaws in the series with Francisco Liriano going in the finale.

Consider this an appetizer to the main course that is our in-depth preview coming later today. Still, this series will be nothing short of epic.

Competent travelers

The Pittsburgh Pirates have gained a reputation of being bad on the road in recent years. But is it truly warranted? The Pirates are 26-26 on the road this year – hardly cause to celebrate. Yet this is on pace for a marked improvement over 2014’s model, which went 37-44. Perhaps road troubles are cyclical, as the 2013 team went 44-37 away from PNC Park en route to a 94-68 record.

The Pirates’ home vs road batting splits are very close. Take a look:


Not to be outdone, the Pirates home and away pitching splits are also pretty close.


The level of closeness in these splits bears out the 26-26 record. Coming off of a losing record on the road last year, this could have been a welcome sight for many. Yet, a marked improvement in some of these numbers could mean stealing a few road wins here and there, which could be all the difference in a tight division race.

What will the lineup look like when the boys are back?

With Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison beginning rehab assignments this week, it’s an interesting time to think a bit ahead and wonder what the lineup may look like when they make their eventual return.

To me, it breaks down to two schools of thought: does Harrison need to play the same position every day, or is the lineup better if he floats around from position to position? Surely, Aramis Ramirez is not making the decision any harder for Clint Hurdle. A-Ram is a scant 11-for-51 with five RBI since he returned to the Pirates. A better Ramirez would cloud this conversation, but with Gregory Polanco coming on lately, it’s clear to me that Harrison should return to manning third base regularly. Even that comes with its own set of questions, as Polanco has excelled at the leadoff spot. Conventional wisdom would tell us that when Harrison comes back he should occupy the leadoff spot as he did before. But with Polanco’s resurgence there, Hurdle may want to shuffle things and have Harrison bat lower in the order.

In other words, I have no idea.

Mercer’s path is a little clearer to predict. Jung Ho Kang has shown competent defense at shortstop and has quieted his few remaining naysayers. Showing improvement with each at bat and carrying an average approaching .300, Kang has earned every right to remain on the field in a regular capacity. With the re-additions of Mercer and Harrison, no matter the configuration the biggest beneficiary will be Hurdle’s bench, which will be filled with quality bats and above average defense.

Pirates talk on the web

For more on Harrison and Mercer as well as updates on Rob Scahill and Vance Worley, check out this piece from the Post-Gazette’s Stephen Nesbitt.

Here’s a fun one. By now I’m sure you’ve heard of Marlins Man. The guy who is ubiquitously seen at major sporting events is the focus of a piece from the PG’s Max Cohen.

The Tribune Review’s Bill West goes in depth on how Tony Watson‘s off-speed stuff has improved this year.

That does it for us in today’s wake-up call. Now that we’ve got your blood flowing, be sure to tune in later today for our in-depth series preview vs the Redbirds.

Next: What pitchers might the Pirates face in a Wild Card playoff?