Pittsburgh Pirates Look to Turn it Around vs the Dodgers


The Pittsburgh Pirates look to turn things around this weekend as they play host to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Read on for a preview of the series:

Dodgers Record: 41-33 (2nd in NL West)

Last Series Result: 3 game sweep of the Washington Nationals

Probable Pitching Matchups for Pittsburgh Pirates vs L.A. Dodgers

Game 1 – June 24, 7:05 P.M. EDT

Jameson Taillon (R) (1-1) vs. Nick Tepesch (R) (0-0)

Game 2 – June 25, 7:15 P.M. EDT

Jeff Locke (L) (6-5) vs. Kenta Maeda (R) (6-4)

Game 3 – June 26, 8:08 P.M. EDT

TBA vs. Clayton Kershaw (L) (11-1)

Game 4 – June 27, 12:35 P.M. EDT

Francisco Liriano (L) (4-7) vs. Scott Kazmir (L) (5-3)

The murderer’s row of tough opponents that the Pirates have faced lately continues this weekend as the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town. The Dodgers are currently second in the NL West to their rival San Francisco Giants, but would host the NL Wild Card game if the regular season ended today. The Dodgers have been on a hot streak lately, winners of 6 in a row and 8 of their last 9 games. The success of the Dodgers is surprising given that they have a relatively anemic offense. They are slashing .235/.308/.385 as a team (27th/23rd/28th in MLB) and have a .693 OPS (26th in MLB). Rather the Dodgers success comes from the mound. Their pitching staff has an overall ERA of 3.32 and WHIP of 1.11, 3rd and 2nd in baseball respectively.

Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dodgers offense currently has no qualifying batters with an average over .300 or an On-base Percentage over .350. Rookie Shortstop Corey Seager has been the Dodgers best producing batter, leading the team in many offensive categories. Meanwhile, 37 year old Second Baseman Chase Utley and 34 year old First Baseman continue to produce for the Dodgers as well, with Utley slashing .262/.348/.384 and Gonzalez slashing .267/.344/.380. Beyond them, there isn’t too much to get excited about in the Dodgers lineup, though Seager, Trayce Thompson, Justin Turner, and Joc Pederson all have double digit Home Runs.

The Pirates will face the Dodgers 3 innings pitched leaders in Kershaw, Maeda, and Kazmir. Kershaw is putting together another stellar season and is an early contender to win his 4th career Cy Young award. He currently has a 1.57 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP over 115 innings pitched. He is also striking out 11.03 batters per 9 innings pitched. Maeda is also having a great season and would be considered the ace of many rotations given his stats, but he is overshadowed by his teammate. He currently boasts a 2.64 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Scott Kazmir was considered a potential free agent target of the Pirates over the offseason, before he eventually signed with the Dodgers. It may be some comfort to Pirates fans to hear he “only” has a 4.52 ERA, though other than Gerrit Cole this would unfortunately still be the lowest ERA of any member of the Pirates’ opening day rotation. The other starter Nick Tepesch has spent the season until now in AAA and will be making his first appearance since 2014.

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Recent Meetings

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

This will be the first meeting between the Pirates and Dodgers this season. Last season, the Pirates were able to defeat Los Angeles in 5 of their 6 meetings. The two teams met first in Pittsburgh in August, with the Pirates sweeping the Dodgers in 3 games. The two teams met again in September at Dodger Stadium with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking 2 games of the 3 game series. The Pirates won the first game between the two teams in the form of a 10th inning walkoff. The Dodgers took the first game when the two teams met in Los Angeles in September, but the Pirates took the remaining games to win the series.

Dodgers Player to Watch: Corey Seager

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Corey Seager was the Dodgers first round pick, taken 18th overall, in 2012. He made his Major League debut last season, appearing in 27 games and slashing .337/.425/.561. In his first full season, Seager hasn’t been as offensively prolific, but is still leading the team in all major offensive categories. So far, he is slashing .289/.348/.519 with 16 Home Runs. He also has a .367 wOBA and 134 wRC+. Seager has been an important component of the Dodgers lineup on a team that doesn’t produce very much offensively and relies on their pitching to win keep games close. His ability to continue producing like a veteran will be key to the Dodgers keeping ahead in the Wild Card race and attempt to chase down the Giants.

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Pirates Keys to Victory

Shut Down Seager

As mentioned above, Corey Seager is one of the key components of a relatively paltry Dodgers’ offense. If Pirates pitching can keep him contained, it will be harder for the Dodgers to put up as many runs as they would have otherwise.

Pitching Needs to be Competent

I said this last week, but it still applies. We’re at the point where I’m just asking the Pirates’ pitching to not be embarrassing. The Dodgers don’t produce offensively at a high level, 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.

Timely Hitting

Runs may come at a premium against some of the pitchers that the Dodgers are sending out. The Pirates will have to take advantage of the chances they get and get some timely hits to maximize their runs. Then they have to hope the pitching will do them a favor for once.

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. I actually expect the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the first game as Jameson Taillon will not be facing the Cubs and the Dodgers are trotting out a pitcher that has spent the season in the minors. Beyond that, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they Pirates win at least 1 of the remaining 3 games, despite having to face Kershaw and Maeda. These teams will split the series.

Prediction: Tied 2-2 for Pittsburgh Pirates vs L.A. Dodgers


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