Pirates Opening Day Preview


The Clubs

Tomorrow, April 3, is the day Pirates fans have been waiting for since about 10:50 PM on October 7. The Pittsburgh Pirates are finally back, and they will be facing off against Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Devil Bids, I mean Cardinals. The Cardinals are coming off a season in which they led were the best team in all of baseball with a record of 100-62 before losing to the Chicago Cubs 3 games to 1 in the National League Divisional Series. The Pirates are coming off a year were they finished with the second best record in baseball going 98-64 before dropping to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Wild Card game.

Jul 11, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) rounds the bases on a game winning two run home run to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourteenth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 6-5 in fourteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

But both teams have lost players that were big keys for their respective teams success. The Cardinals lost outfielder Jason Heyward to the Chicago Cubs, who played in 154 games and hit .293/.359/.439, they traded away Pirates killer Jon Jay to the Padres, John Lackey who pitched in 218 innings posting a 2.77 ERA signed with the Cubs, Lance Lynn posted a 3.03 ERA in 175.1 innings but he underwent Tommy John in November. The Cardinals starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta went on the disabled list after needing surgery to repair his thumb, which looks to keep him out until the All-Star break. The Pirates non-tendered their 2015 starting first baseman Pedro Alvarez, traded the home town kid Neil Walker to the Mets, Aramis Ramirez and fan favorite and bulldog type pitcher AJ Burnett retired, after having a stellar two months with the Pirates, JA Happ signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, and Joakim Soria, a pitcher who had a 2.03 ERA with the club, signed with the Kansas City Royals. Joe Blanton signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Antonio Bastardo signed with the New York Mets, and Charlie Morton was traded to cross state rival Philadelphia.

However, both teams made some additions to help replace these losses. The Cardinals brought in Brayan Pena to back up catcher Yadier Molina. They signed pitcher Mike Leake, a Pirates killer, and a pitcher who has produced a 3.59 ERA over the last three seasons, to replace the loss of John Lackey. And just a few days ago, the Cards signed Ruben Tejada to start at short for the team in the absence of Peralta. The Pirates replaced AJ Burnett, Charlie Morton, and JA Happ by signing Juan Nicasio, who made the rotation out of spring training, and they brought over left-handed pitcher Jon Niese from the Mets in an off-season trade. They signed left-handed catcher turned first baseman John Jaso to pair with Michael Morse. They signed David Freese to serve as the starting third baseman with Jung Ho Kang out, before sliding over to platoon at first. The addition of Matt Joyce will be to serve as the fourth outfielder, and the odds are Neftali Feliz will replace Joakim Soria as the seventh inning setting up Tony Watson and Mark Melancon.

The Game

Starting for the St. Louis Cardinals is Adam Wainwright. Although the 10 year veteran has a career 11-6 record against the Pirates, he also has a 4.29 ERA in 153 innings and 28 games, 23 of which have been starts. Furthermore,

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

the Pirates have a slash line of .275/.333/.406 in 658 plate appearances. These marks are long ways off from his career 2.98 ERA and opponents slash of .243/.293/.356. But it is at PNC Park where the Cardinals ace struggles most. In his 71.2 innings, in 14 games and 11 starts, Waino has produced a 5.15 ERA and the Pirates slash .307/.359/.420. More impressively, over the last five years, Adam has started three games at PNC, and the Cards have gone 0-3 with a 4.05 ERA. Overall in the last three seasons, Wainwright has relied on mainly four pitches: his four seam fastball which has averaged 91.67 miles per hour, his sinker which has averaged 91.33 miles per hour, his curve which has averaged 75.82 miles per hour, and his cutter which has averaged 87.94 miles per hour. He has a nice balance of pitches, with each four of those being used about 20 percent, 20 percent, 28 percent, and 29 percent respectively. Look for him to attack down and glove side to the Pirates while trying to mix up his pitches to try and keep Pirates hitters off-balance as he tries to improve on his career marks against the Bucs.

Sep 13, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Starting for the Pittsburgh Pirates is left-handed starter Francisco Liriano, his third straight opening day start. After being a reclamation project for the Pirates, the southpaw has posted a 3.26 ERA and a 3.23 FIP in 86 starts and 510 innings since joining the club in 2013. In those 86 games and 2130 plate appearances, opponents have hit .222/.303/.326, which trumps the opponents slash of .247/.327/.383 in his 168 games as a non Pirate. Frank has a career 2.58 ERA in 12 games against the Cards, with the club batting .193/.272/.296 off of him in his career. Both are numbers that are very comparable to his numbers in his 11 games against the Cardinals against as a Pirate. Lirinao has started 7 games against the Cardinals at PNC Park, in which he has pitched 44.2 innings, Frank has a 3.02 ERA and the club has gone 4-3. And overall since Liriano became a Pirate, they have gone 7-4 in games where he has started against St. Louis. Frank has relied on mainly three pitches since becoming a Pirate: his sinker averaging 93.51 miles per hour, his change-up averaging 86.31 miles per hour, and his slider which has been averaging 86.52 miles per hour. Liriano will look to attack below the strike zone, where 36.38 percent of his pitches have been since joining the Pirates. He will use a balanced attack against right-handed hitters, but against left-handed hitter he uses his four seam fastball 46.35 percent of the time and his slider 46.17 percent of the time. But with the Cardinals being a right-handed dominate lineup, look for him to mix his pitches well and to attack below the strike zone glove side and the bottom third of the strike zone arm side.

Projected Lineups- Slash Line Against Starter


  1. Matt Carpenter 3B– 34 PA .179/.324/.250
  2. Kolten Wong 2B– 19 PA .211/.211/.263
  3. Matt Holliday 1B– 31 PA .296/.387/.481
  4. Randal Grichuk CF– 6 PA .500/.500/.500
  5. Brandon Moss LF– N/A
  6. Stephen Piscotty RF– 3 PA .000/.000/.000
  7. Yadier Molina C– 28 PA .185/.214/.333
  8. Jedd Gyorko SS– 11 PA .182/.182/.182
  9. Adam Wainwright P– NA


  1. John Jaso 1B– N/A
  2. Andrew McCutchen CF– 54 PA .280/.296/.480
  3. David Freese 3B– N/A
  4. Starling Marte LF– 33 PA .167/.242/.333
  5. Francisco Cervelli C– 1 PA .000/.000/.000
  6. Gregory Polanco RF– 1 PA 1.000/1.000/1.000
  7. Josh Harrison 2B– 14 PA .462/.500/.538
  8. Jordy Mercer SS– 16 PA .313/.313/.688
  9. Francisco Liriano P– N/A

Tomorrow the Pirates will start game one of a 162 game journey. If you’re going to the game enjoy. Let’s go Bucs!

Game Time: 1:05

Root Sports and ESPN

Hour Long Pirates Pregame starting at Noon

*Numbers from baseball-reference.com and pitch data from brooksbaseball.net