Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates Miami-bound to face Marlins
The Pittsburgh Pirates, currently sitting at 74-48, will look to reach 27 games over .500 for the first time since 1992 when they face the floundering Miami Marlins (50-74). The Pirates are coming off of another four game set where they took three of four from the defending champion San Francisco Giants. In doing so, the team has climbed back to within 3.5 games of the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, Major League Baseball’s best team. They are also three games up on the Chicago Cubs for hold on the first wild-card spot.
More from Pirates News
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Leadoff Hitters in 2023
- Pittsburgh Pirates: The Rotation is not being Improved
- Pittsburgh Pirates Make Vince Velasquez Signing Official
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Bob Nutting, Please Sell the Team
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Free Agent Starting Pitchers Still Available
The Bucs have been fueled by first baseman Pedro Alvarez. After being aggressively shopped at the deadline to no avail, “El Toro” has found his swing, hitting .390 with five home runs in his past 14 games played. Beyond that, the youth of the Pirates has continued to produce. First year player Jung Ho Kang has continued to wow in his first year in the black and gold, hitting .320 with three homers in the last week, including two long balls in a 3-2 win over the Giants Saturday afternoon. Right fielder Gregory Polanco has kept up his second-half outbreak and has been hitting .330 in August, just slightly under the .333 average catcher Francisco Cervelli has posted.
With this much support around superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates have become an elite hitting team. They rank 8th out of 30 teams in the MLB with a .261 batting average, and are fifth in the National League in total bases, with 1692. With a combination of speedsters in Polanco, McCutchen, and left fielder Starling Marte, coupled with the power of Alvarez and Kang, the threat is there at any time for a huge inning. The perfect example: the nine run explosion the Bucs had against the Dodgers on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on August 9th, where just about all the lineup got in on the action. The abundance of runs put the game out of reach for the Dodgers, as the Pirates won 13-6.
With a combination of speedsters in Polanco, McCutchen, and left fielder Starling Marte, coupled with the power of Alvarez and Kang, the threat is there at any time for a huge inning. The perfect example: the nine run explosion the Bucs had against the Dodgers on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on August 9th, where just about all the lineup got in on the action. The abundance of runs put the game out of reach for the Dodgers, as the Pirates won 13-6.
The Marlins enter the series against the Pirates playing some of their worst baseball. With a 12-23 mark since the all-star break, the Marlins are one of baseball’s worst teams, tied with the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies for the worst record in all of baseball. Aside from second baseman Dee Gordon‘s .335 batting average being the best in baseball, the Marlins have little to speak for. Their other star, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, has been missing from the lineup since late June after injuring his wrist. For the time he has missed, Stanton still ranks fifth in the NL in home runs, with 27. He was on pace for well over 50+ long balls, putting a real hole in the lineup for the Marlins, who rank 28th in the MLB in runs scored, just seven runs ahead of last place Atlanta.
Now let’s look at the expected pitching matchups for the upcoming series against the Marlins:
Monday, 8/24, 7:10 PM- LHP J.A. Happ (1-1, 2.87 ERA) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (8-11, 4.02 ERA)
Tuesday, 8/25, 7:10 PM- RHP Charlie Morton (8-4, 4.06 ERA) vs. LHP Brad Hand (3-3, 4.46 ERA)
Wednesday, 8/26, 7:10 PM- LHP Jeff Locke (6-8, 4.65 ERA) vs. RHP Kendry Flores (1-2, 4.97 ERA)
Thursday, 8/27, 7:10 PM- RHP Gerrit Cole (14-7, 2.49 ERA) vs. LHP Justin Nicolino (2-1, 3.77 ERA)
Analysis of pitching matchups:
The Pirates have one of the better staff’s in all of baseball, injuries and all. J.A. Happ has come around since being acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline July 31st, while Charlie Morton has gone 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts in August. The alarming part: Jeff Locke, who has struggled all year, and ace Gerrit Cole have gone a combined 0-5 in their nine starts this month, with a 6.43 and 3.60 ERA, respectively.
This all being said, the Pirates have an enormous advantage on the mound, with only one of the projected starters having a sub-4.00 ERA. Even then, Justin Nicolino’s ERA is still a 3.77, while Kendry Flores is taking the mound for only his second start and eighth appearance overall. While the Pirates have brought up youth that has been seasoned and made ready, the Marlins have brought up arms to replace injuries and bide time until their nightmare of a season is over. Make no mistake about it: the Marlins are a very bad baseball team, and the numbers don’t hide it.
Now let’s look at how the lineup of the Pirates has fared against the projected starters of the Marlins:
Koehler has not faced the Pirates much, nor has he faced them this year. A lot of Pirate regulars have found success against him, including McCutchen, who is 2-4 with a home run against Koehler. Utility man Josh Harrison has also done well against him, which bodes well for him as he comes off of the disabled list and tries to get back into the flow of things right before September hits.
|Jung Ho Kang||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
Hand was quite productive his last time out against the Pirates, giving the Marlins five solid innings of four hit, scoreless baseball in what turned out to be a 5-2 victory for the Bucs. Utility man Sean Rodriguez went 2-4 and is 3-4 lifetime against Hand, including a home run. Aside from that, Hand has nearly silenced the current Pirates.
Flores has never faced the Pirates, and is making just his ninth big-league appearance.
Nicolino has also never faced the Pirates, and is making just his sixth appearance and start in the Majors.
Hitter to avoid- Dee Gordon
For each series we identify an opposing hitter that the Pirates should tread lightly around. For the Marlins, that hitter is Dee Gordon. Here are his career numbers versus current Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers:
Along with his history of hitting .375 against the current Pirates pitchers, Dee Gordon is leading Major League Baseball with a .335 average and 154 hits. He’s also second in stolen bases (41). Gordon has posted a 5-13 (.385) mark against the Pirates this year, and has scored two runs. He’s a hit machine, and doesn’t strike out much. Look for him to make the Pirates pitchers work a little harder to try and stop this menace, possibly throwing a wrench in their groove throughout a game.
I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again: the Marlins are a very bad baseball team. The Pirates have won 10 of 12 against this hapless team, and should take at least three from them here in Miami. A series like this potentially sets the tone heading into September, and keeps the Bucs within reach of the NL Central with three games left to play against the Cardinals.
Final Prediction- Pirates take three of four, move to 77-49 and remain at 3.5 games behind the Cardinals.
Next: Pittsburgh Pirates series review vs. San Francisco Giants