The Pittsburgh Pirates complete their homestand with a 3 game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Read on for a preview of the series.
Diamondbacks Record: 21-25 (4th in NL West)
Last Series Result: Won two of three against the St. Louis Cardinals
Probable Pitching Matchups
Game 1 – May 24, 7:05 P.M. ET
Game 2 – May 25, 7:05 P.M. ET
Game 3 – May 26, 12:35 P.M. ET
The Arizona Diamondbacks came into this season hoping to challenge the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants for supremacy in the NL West. They went out and got Shelby Miller and Zach Greinke to headline their rotation and Jean Segura to man second base. However, late in the exhibition season, the Diamondbacks lost Gold Glove and All-Star center fielder A.J. Pollock, likely for the season. Once the season started the pitching additions proved substandard. While Zach Greinke has still pitched well, he has been less than the ace pitcher that the Diamondbacks were hoping to get. Additionally, Shelby Miller has been a massive disappointment, going 1-5 in nine starts with a 1.80 WHIP, 6.64 ERA, and a 6.53 FIP.
The Diamondbacks have a high powered offense that has performed very well this season. However, because the pitching staff leaves much to be desired, they find themselves at 21-25 and 5 games out of a playoff spot through the first quarter of the season. The Diamondbacks have proven streaky of late though. Starting April 29 they lost six straight to Colorado and Miami, then won 5 straight against Atlanta and Colorado. They then lost another 5 straight to Colorado and the NL West leading San Francisco Giants. Since then and coming into this series they have won 4 of 6, including helping the Pirates out by taking 2 of 3 from the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Diamondbacks as a team are slashing .270/.328/.447 (5th/8th/5th in MLB) and have a .775 OPS (6th in MLB). Their 53 home runs are tied for ninth in baseball, and they have a league leading 19 triples and have 162 extra base hits on the season (3rd in MLB).
The Diamondbacks don’t walk a lot though for their offensive output, with only 132 (16th in MLB). This is the main difference in the type of offense the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates have, though both are very good. The Pirates 131 extra base hits are only 12th in baseball, while their 156 walks are eighth in baseball. The Diamondbacks’ walks are inflated by their first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, whose 43 are second to only Bryce Harper in the league and represent nearly a third of his team’s total walks (32.6%).
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks met a for a three game series in Arizona from April 22-24. The Pirates took two of three in the series, but were outscored overall 24-21 thanks to their lone loss being a blowout.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates won the first game 8-7, holding on late in a game that saw six home runs. The second game, the only Arizona win of the series, was a close game until late, when the Diamondbacks pulled ahead to win 7-1. The series finale was a crazy affair that saw the Diamondbacks make up two run deficits twice in what would have been their last chances.
With the Pirates leading 8-6 in the Ninth inning, Paul Goldschmidt tied the game with a two-run home run. The Diamondbacks also tied it in the 12th inning down 10-8. The Pirates finally won it in the 13th inning when the Pirates took a 12-10 lead and the Diamondbacks were forced to send two pitchers to the plate in their final last chance due to a lack of bench options.
Diamondbacks Player to Watch: Jean Segura
The best performing addition to the Arizona Diamondbacks this year is not Zach Greinke, as many would have expected when the season began. Instead, it is Jean Segura who is having a career year in his first season with the Diamondbacks. It may surprise some Pittsburgh Pirates fans, who may be familiar with Segura from his years with the Milwaukee Brewers, that he is currently slashing .321/.348/.484 with five home runs and three triples. His five home runs are already only one shy of his six total he had in 2015 with the Brewers and nearly halfway to his career high of 12 that he had in 2013.
Segura’s numbers are likely to normalize over the season closer to his career average slashline of .272/.306/.373. However, while his BABIP of .364 is high, it is not stratospheric and it’s likely that at this point he could continue to perform at a level that would give him a career season.
For reference, his career best season came in 2013 when he slashed .294/.329/.423, which Segura could certainly top, or at least hit similarly to, over the season. Segura may not be the most powerful bat in the Diamondbacks’ lineup, but he is in the midst of what could well be a career season and his familiarity with the Pittsburgh Pirates, from his years with the Brewers, could see him having a big series.
Pirates Keys to Victory
Keep it in the Park
Despite taking two of three against the Diamondbacks when the two teams last met, the Pirates were outscored over the series. A large part of that had to do with Pirates’ pitchers giving up nine home runs in the three game series. The Diamondbacks have some power hitters and they took advantage of the weak Pirate pitching. Though there are indications that the pitching is stabilizing, the Diamondbacks could easily tee off against them again. Preventing this will go a long way towards the Pirates getting another series victory.
Win the First Game
Shelby Miller has been, to put it bluntly, a disaster this season. While his counterpart when he faces the Pirates, Francisco Liriano, hasn’t been his usual self this year, this is still a big opportunity for the Pirates.
There aren’t really any must-win games in May and I wouldn’t call the first game that. Rather, I would call this a should-win given the pitching matchup. While the Pirates can easily still win the series without winning the first game, this would be a game that, if the Pirates don’t win, they may look back on as a missed opportunity if they miss the playoffs or lose the division by a small margin.
Bullpen Hold Up
The Pittsburgh Pirates had issues letting the Arizona Diamondbacks get back into ballgames after taking big leads the last time these two teams met. The bullpen overall has been troublesome this season, but it seems to be in better shape with Jared Hughes back from the disabled list and Tony Watson over his early season struggles. Watch recent call-up Wilfredo Boscan to maybe come in during the second or third game (He pitched fourinnings on Monday and will presumably be unavailable in the opener) if the starter is struggling. I have a feeling Boscan could be a key piece in this bullpen in middle relief the rest of the season and it will be interesting to see how he would do against the Diamondbacks powerful lineup.
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. Though both teams are gifted offensively, they are also both challenged from the mound. I give the Pittsburgh Pirates the edge in this meeting due to the series being in Pittsburgh and the pitching matchups being slightly in the Pirates’ favor. Additionally, the home field advantage that the Pirates get from playing at PNC Park comes into play here.
Prediction: Pirates 2-1
*Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, mlb.com, and espn.com