Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates travel to Big Apple to duel surging Mets
The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to New York City for a date with the Mets, which marks the third straight series the Pirates will have played against one of the National League’s divisional leaders. After sweeping the NL West-leading Dodgers, the Pirates (66-46) headed to NL Central leader and rival St. Louis, losing the first two and salvaging the last of the three game series against the Cardinals last night.
Rookie shortstop Jung Ho Kang has stepped up huge in light of injuries to infielders Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, and has gone 31-88 (.352) since the break, contributing nine doubles and five home runs.
Their next test, the Mets (63-46) have been red-hot since the trade deadline on July 31st. After being key players at the deadline, the Mets have thrived in the same way that the Pirates have, being led by excellent pitching. The Mets (3.18 ERA) and Pirates (3.25) rank second and third in team ERA in all of Major League Baseball, while the Mets have kept hitters to just a .238 average throughout the entirety of the season thus far. The Pirates, though, rank one spot from dead-last in the NL with a 4.80 ERA since the all-star break, mostly due to A.J. Burnett‘s absence and a tougher schedule as of late.Since the all-star break, the two clubs have really gotten into the “swing” of things. The Mets lead the NL in runs since the break, averaging an astounding 4.7 runs per game. Right fielder Curtis Granderson has been a bright spot, hitting .291 with seven home runs in the 26 games post-break. First baseman Lucas Duda has also been productive, mashing nine home runs in his last 23 contests.
The Pirates will counter with hot-hitting right fielder Gregory Polanco, who has reached base safely in 29 of his last 31 games played and is hitting .336 since the all-star break. Rookie shortstop Jung Ho Kang has stepped up huge in light of injuries to infielders Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, and has gone 31-88 (.352) since the break, contributing nine doubles and five home runs. Catcher Francisco Cervelli (.319) and center fielder Andrew McCutchen (.314) have also hit well since the break, with McCutchen contributing six home runs and 21 RBI, giving him 77 and ranking him thrid in the NL in the latter category.
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Now let’s look at the expected pitching matchups for the three game set with the Mets:
Friday, 8/14, 7:10 PM LHP J.A. Happ (0-1, 8.31 ERA) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (10-11, 4.67 ERA)
Saturday, 8/15, 7:10 PM RHP Charlie Morton (7-4, 4.48 ERA) vs. RHP Jonathon Niese (7-9, 3.46 ERA)
Sunday, 8/16, 1:10 PM LHP Jeff Locke (6-7, 4.43 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (11-7, 2.61 ERA)
Analysis of pitching matchup
The Mets will have the luxury of missing the top two starters for the Pirates in Gerrit Cole (14-6, 2.48 ERA) and Francisco Liriano (8-6, 3.19 ERA). J.A. Happ will be making his second start for the black and gold after giving up four runs in just over as many innings in a contest against the Cubs on August 4th that saw the Bucs lose 5-0. He’ll be looking to rebound against Bartolo Colon, who at age 42 has provided quality pitching to the Mets all season. Matt Harvey will look to avenge himself against a Pirates team that he gave up seven earned runs in just four innings of work against back on May 23rd. The point is that the Pirates will have to hold their own without the help of their top three pitchers (Cole, Liriano, Burnett) against a Met’s staff that is every bit as talented as any in the majors.
Here’s how the Pirates batters have done against the expected pitching of the Mets:
Colon, for as long as he’s been in the league, hasn’t seen a whole lot of the current Pirates lineup. That being said, both Chris Stewart and Aramis Ramirez are hitting over .350 against the veteran. With Gerit Cole not pitching and Stewart’s at bats starting to get limited come playoff-push time, will he get a chance to continue his work against Colon?
|Jung Ho Kang||3||2||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||.500||.667||1.000||1.667|
Again, Ramirez has made hay hitting off of this Met’s starter as well. Both him and Andrew McCutchen have fared well against Niese, taking him yard. Also noteworthy, of Mike Morse’s four hits against Niese, three of them have gone for doubles. While his average of .182 against Niese isn’t favorable, his ability to hit for extra bases off of Niese is. It would potentially be favorable to have Morse in the lineup anyway, as Niese is a left handed pitcher, which usually spells doom for the Pirates other first baseman, Pedro Alvarez.
|Jung Ho Kang||2||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.500||.500||.500||1.000|
Harvey has only been in the league a short time, so there’s really no fair way to assess the numbers he has compiled against the Pirates. The big thing to note: Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez got the best of him in May, both taking him deep.
Hitter to avoid- Daniel Murphy
The Mets’ second baseman hasn’t set the world on fire against the Bucs, but he’s been the most productive against them out of the current Mets. In somewhat short experience against them, he’s compiled a hit against all three of the starters for the upcoming series, including a home run off of J.A. Happ. His .280 average against the Bucs is right in line with his season average, as Murphy has been quite consistent thus far into his six year career.
This has the billing to be another great series for the Pirates. That being said, it’s always hard to predict a series that can go either way. That being said, the Mets appear to have the on-paper advantage on the mound, a huge plus. And while they’ve been on a torrid pace scoring wise, the Pirates lineup is one of the most lethal ones in all of baseball. With that being close to a draw, and the Pirates owning an incredible bullpen, it shakes out pretty evenly. That being said, someone has to bring the Mets down to earth, and something has to wash out two ugly losses to the Cards.
Final prediction- Pirates take two of three from Mets, move to 68-47.