Pittsburgh Pirates Host Red Hot Giants in 4 Game Series


The Pittsburgh Pirates return home to host the NL West leading San Francisco Giants. Read on for a preview of the series:

Giants Record: 44-26 (1st in NL West)

Last Series Result: 3 game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays

Probable Pitching Matchups

Game 1 – June 20, 7:05 P.M. EDT

Jeff Locke (L) (5-5) vs. Madison Bumgarner (L) (8-2)

Game 2 – June 21, 7:05 P.M. EDT

TBA vs. Johnny Cueto (R) (10-1)

Game 3 – June 22, 7:05 P.M. EDT

Francisco Liriano (L) (4-7) vs. Jeff Samardzija (R) (8-4)

Game 4 – June 23, 12:35 P.M. EDT

Jon Niese (L) (6-4) vs. Albert Suarez (R) (2-1)

Things are not going to get any easier for the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates as they welcome the San Francisco Giants to PNC Park. The Giants, much like the Cubs, are running away with their division and are leading the Los Angeles Dodgers by seven games in the NL West. Additionally, they are currently in the midst of an eight game winning streak. This bodes well for the Giants goal to win their fourth World Series in seven years and continue their trend of winning it in every even year of this decade so far.

The San Francisco Giants’ offense is similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates in that they get on base a lot, but don’t hit many home runs. They are currently slashing as a team .256/.331/.396 (13th/5th/22nd) with a .726 OPS (17th). Their 59 home runs are 28th in the league, but they have drawn the fifth most walks (256) and the third fewest strikeouts (466). Their offense is led by first baseman Brandon Belt who is slashing .305/.418/.540 with a .958 OPS, all team highs among qualified hitters. His eight home runs are also lead the team.

Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

While the offensive profile of the San Francisco Giants is similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the pitching could not be any different. Instead of having a mess like the Pirates, the Giants pitching staff boasts a team ERA of 3.41 (fifth in MLB) and 1.20 WHIP (fourth in MLB). They don’t give up many hits, with opponents batting .246 against Giants’ pitchers (seventh in MLB) and they are allowing few free baserunners with their 174 walks currently third lowest in baseball.

Their rotation is led by a few familiar faces to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner. Cueto is of course a longtime nemesis of the Pirates from his days with the Cincinnati Reds. Bumgarner on the other hand victimized the Pirates when these two teams faced in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game. The Pirates will face both of them this week. Cueto and Bumgarner and the other starters the Pirates will face all have WHIP’s at 1.11 or lower.

Recent Meetings

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

This will be the first meeting between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants this season. Last season, the Pirates were able to exact some measure of revenge for the Giants eliminating them from the playoffs the previous year by defeating them in six of their seven meetings.

The two teams met first in San Francisco in early June, with the Pirates sweeping them. The two teams met again in late August in Pittsburgh with the Pirates taking three games of a four game series. Not surprisingly, the Pirates only loss of the season to the Giants came at the hands of Madison Bumgarner. Overall, the Pirates outscored the Giants 32-19 in their seven meetings.

Giants Player to Watch: Brandon Belt

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

With an offense already struggling for power, the Giants can use all the home run they can get. This alone could make Brandon Belt an irreplaceable piece of the Giants’ lineup. Add on top of that that he is currently slashing .305/.418/.540 with an OPS of .958 (all team highs) and he is easily the most valuable component of the Giants’ offense.

This production is somewhat unexpected as the 28 year old Belt is currently in the midst of a breakout season. He currently has career highs in every common and/or important statistic. Standing out maybe the most is that he currently took major leaps in his walks and strikeouts, with his rates for them currently much improved (16.4 K% for 2016 vs. 23.5 K% for his career, 16.0 BB% for 2016 vs. 10.5% BB% for his career).

Belt’s improvement is no fluke as well. Though his .339 BABIP may appear high at first, it is actually in line with his .340 career BABIP. The Giants would be a good team anyways with their stellar pitching, but Belt’s career season has been instrumental in allowing them to be a great team that could contend for the World Series this season.

Pirates Keys to Victory

Limit Belt

As mentioned above, Brandon Belt is key to the Giants’ offense. If the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching can find some way to contain Belt, the Giants may find runs harder to come by than they may have ordinarily otherwise against the Pirates’ pitching.

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Pitching Needs to be Competent

We’re at the point where I’m just asking the Pirates’ pitching to not be embarrassing. The Giants don’t hit a lot of home runs, so as long as they don’t issue too many walks (a big if), then they may be able to weather a rough inning or two without the allowing too much damage.

Patience at the Plate

The Giants are sending out some excellent pitchers. The Pirates may not be able to get a ton of runs off of them, but if they can be patient at the plate they may be able to get the starters out of games relatively early. Then they can hopefully get some runs off of the bullpen and pull out a win as long as the pitching has kept it close.

Series Prediction

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. This could be a rough one for the Pirates. The Giants are a great team on a hot streak and the Pirates are currently banged up and the pitching has become a certified mess. Runs will be hard to come by on offense and the pitching could be overmatched in trying to keep the game close. I’d like to think the Pirates will get at least one win over 4 games against the Giants, but I don’t see a series win coming.

Prediction: Giants 3-1


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

*Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, baseball reference, mlb.com, and espn.com