Pittsburgh Pirates To Host Surprising Colorado Rockies For Weekend Series
The Pittsburgh Pirates continue their homestand with a 3 game weekend series with the Colorado Rockies. Read on for a preview of the series:
Rockies Record: 20-20/21-19 (2nd/3rd in NL West)
Last Series Result: Won/Lost 2 of 3 to the St. Louis Cardinals
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Game 1 – May 20, 7:05 P.M. ET
Gerrit Cole (R) (4-3) vs. Eddie Butler (R) (2-1)
Game 2 – May 21, 4:05 P.M. ET
Jon Niese (L) (4-2) vs. Tyler Chatwood (R) (5-3)
Game 3 – May 22, 1:35 P.M. ET
Juan Nicasio (R) (4-3) vs. Chad Bettis (R) (4-2)
The Colorado Rockies have been a moderate surprise thanks to their mild success this season, at least compared with low preseason expectations. They currently hover around .500 and are in 2nd/3rd in a watered down NL West. One may think that their record is thanks to just being better than the mediocre to bad competition in their division. However, they are currently only 13-12 against intra-division opponents. The high points of their season so far include taking two-of-three against the Chicago Cubs in mid-April and recently having a five game winning streak that included a sweep of the defending National League Champion New York Mets. The Rockies are also 11-8 since their previous meeting with the Pirates in late April.
The Rockies offense is led by 25 year old Third Baseman Nolan Arenado, who is currently slashing .305/.374/.617 with 13 home runs. Additionally, rookie Shortstop Trevor Story, who has cooled off a bit from his hot start, still has 11 home runs and remains a threat. The offense doesn’t end with Arenado and Story though, as all five qualifying batters on the roster currently own batting averages over .275 and on-base percentages over .300. The team as a whole is slashing .274/.332/.456 (3rd/7th/3rd in MLB) and has 14 triples (3rd in MLB).
The pitching for the Colorado Rockies, much like the Pittsburgh Pirates, has been less than stellar when compared with their batting. Their 4.78 team ERA is 27th lowest in the league and their .269 opponent’s batting average is 25th lowest. Their 1.38 WHIP is a little better at 19th in the league, but is still not very good. The Pirates, however, will be facing some a couple of the Rockies’ better pitchers in Tyler Chatwood and Chad Bettis. Chatwood has started 5-3 and owns a 3.20 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, but is likely due for some minor regression over the season due to a .270 Opponent’s BABIP and a 4.17 FIP. Bettis on the other hand owns a high ERA of 4.18, but his 3.73 FIP and 1.21 WHIP are more indicative of the type of pitcher he’s been. He went 6.2 innings pitched in his previous start against the Pirates on April 25 and gave up six Hits, four earned runs, walking two, and striking out three.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies met for a four game series in late April that saw the Pirates win three and the final game get postponed to June 9th due to snow. The Pirates won the first two games comfortably by 6-1 and 9-4 final scores. The third win took a little more as the Pirates won 9-8 in 12 innings. In that one the Pirates jumped out to a 7-0 lead through 3 ½ innings before the Rockies began a comeback. Jon Niese promptly gave up two home runs in the bottom of the fourth as part of a four run inning. With the score 8-5 in the seventh inning, Mark Reynolds hit a 2-run home run to make it a one run game and Gerardo Parra hit a solo home run in the eighth to tie it.
Neither team could break the deadlock until the 12th inning when Jordy Mercer doubled in Gregory Polanco. Mark Melancon then finished it with a scoreless inning. Overall, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 3-0 and have outscored the Colorado Rockies 24-13 this season.
Rockies Player to Watch: Mark Reynolds
Veteran first baseman Mark Reynolds has spent the last few seasons jumping around playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals since 2011 after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Reynolds has always been a prototypical below average defensive player who plays a corner infield spot and hits for power. He seems to be enjoying a bit of a career resurgence this season with the Rockies. For the season he is slashing .315/.385/.463 with two home runs and ten doubles while being the Rockies’ primary first baseman this season.
One might assume this is due to the expected increase in big hits from playing at Coors Field. However, his slugging percentage is similar to his career rate of .452, he is just getting more hits in general. It also doesn’t have anything to do with his walks or strikeouts as those rates are in line with his career averages. Rather, the explanation has a lot to do with a high BABIP (.444), which should regress and result in a lower batting average and on-base percentage. However, his percentage of hits that are line drives are way up (31.1 percent in 2016 vs. 17.5 percent in his career). While Reynolds’ average should go down, it may not go down very much and he will likely start hitting home runs at a higher rate. His play will be an important determinant in whether the Rockies can keep pace with the Giants and Dodgers in the otherwise wide open NL West.
Pirates Keys to Victory
No Home Runs
The Pirates’ pitchers have had issues with giving up home runs this season. Unfortunately, the Rockies have two players with more than 10 Home Runs on the season and other players more than capable of hitting the long ball. If the Pirates’ pitchers can buck the trend and keep the ball in the park, it will become harder for the Rockies to score runs.
Keep Arenado Reigned In
As I mentioned earlier, the Rockies are more than just Nolan Arenado, but he is undoubtedly the best player on the Rockies and their MVP. Keeping Arenado from going off too much, particularly with runners on, will be key to the Pirates coming away with a series victory.
Just One Good Start from Either Niese or Nicasio
I believe that Cole is back to his ace form after his last start against the Cubs. Because of that, I’m very confident in the Pirates chances of winning the series opener Friday night. Jon Niese and Juan Nicasio on the other hand have both shown to be capable of turning in great starts, but both have had forgettable outings as well. The way I see it, if just one has a great start the Pirates should win this series.
Next: Pirates 8, Braves 2: Stars And Stiffs
I find it a near-pointless endeavor to attempt to predict the outcome of not just one baseball game, but a series of three as well. However, I will do so because it’s fun and I’ve always mentally tried to do it at the beginning of every series anyways. The Pittsburgh Pirates hitters are just as productive, if not more so, than those of the Colorado Rockies. Though the pitching staffs are similarly poor performing, the Pirates benefit from having Gerrit Cole on the mound in this series. The Rockies lack a true ace who would be most likely to shut down the Pirates hitters. That alone should be enough to give the Pirates a series victory. Combined with the Pirates being at home and PNC Park being less home run friendly than Coors Field I see the Pirates taking this series.
Prediction: Pirates 2-1
*Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, mlb.com, and espn.com