It’s Time For The Pittsburgh Pirates To Make Hay

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Starting with their series against the Milwaukee Brewers tonight the Pittsburgh Pirates have 70 games remaining this season, 42 of which are against that are at or below .500.

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently find themselves with a record of 47-45. This 47-45 record puts them third place in the National League Central Division, nine games behind the first place Chicago Cubs. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates are just three games behind the Miami Marlins for the second National League Wild Card spot and four games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the top Wild Card spot.

Making up three or four games over a 70 game stretch is not very difficult to do. It becomes even less difficult when a team has a remaining schedule like the Pittsburgh Pirates do. 42 of the Pittsburgh Pirates final 70 games come against teams that are at or below .500 this season. So, it is time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to make hay.

This stretch of less-than-challenging games begins tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates return home to start a three game series at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. If you would like to read more about this series, staff writer Jim Sutter previews it here. Speaking of returning home to PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates will play 38 of their final 72 games at the best ballpark in America.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 24-20 at PNC Park this season, and over the course of the last four seasons no team in Major League Baseball has won more games at home than the Pirates have. This combined with an easy schedule should bode well for the Pirates over the course of the next 11 weeks as they make a push for their fourth consecutive playoff berth. As I wrote about over the weekend, I still believe the Pittsburgh Pirates will make the postseason. 

On top of the remaining schedule, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be getting reinforcements. In fact, some of these reinforcements have already arrived. This past weekend Gerrit Cole rejoined the Pirate rotation. Even though his start against the Washington Nationals did not go well, there is no reason to expect Cole to struggle moving forward.

Jameson Taillon, who has been the Pirates’ second best starting pitcher this year behind Gerrit Cole, will return to the Pirate rotation tonight. Through his first 28 career Major League innings Taillon has a 3.86 ERA, 3.43 xFIP, and is averaging just 1.61 BB/9. Getting him back in the fold should be a major boost to the Pirate rotation.

Even though his overall numbers on the season have not been good, Francisco Liriano has pitched better of late. In his last five starts Liriano has not allowed a home run and has a 3.79 FIP. The problem is, Francisco Liriano is not pitching deep into games. In these five starts, he is averaging just 5 1/3 innings pitched per start.

In Liriano’s last two starts though, his stuff has looked the best it has in quite awhile. This is a big reason why he has nine strikeouts in 11 innings pitched in these two starts. The Pittsburgh Pirates rotation should also get a boost from Tyler Glasnow, who I expect to rejoin the Pirate rotation this weekend against the Philadelphia Phillies.

May 28, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) reacts after scoring a run in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) reacts after scoring a run in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

There are also a trio of Pirate players currently on rehab stints. Starting catcher Francisco Cervelli, catcher Elias Diaz, and right-handed pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Each of these three players can help the Pittsburgh Pirates down the stretch, especially Cervelli and Diaz.

Francisco Cervelli has been on the disabled list since June 11th with a broken hamate bone. However, Cervelli started his rehab stint with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians last Thursday. This should put the Pirates’ starting catcher on pace to return at some point in the next seven-to-ten days.

When the season began, Elias Diaz was salted to be the starting catcher at Triple-A. However, due to elbow surgery he has been on the 60-day disabled list since April. Diaz has began a rehab stint last week, and should return to Triple-A soon. With all the issues the Pirates have had this season with injuries to Cervelli and Chris Stewart, having Diaz back in the fold will be welcomed.

Finally, there is Ryan Vogelsong. Even though Vogelsong’s performance prior to going on the disabled list left a lot to be desired (4.82 xFIP, 4.15 BB/9, 1.25 HR/9), in my opinion he is a better long-man for the bullpen than Jon Niese. Vogelsong could also be an option to be in the back end of the Pirate rotation. In his rehab stints he has been starting games and he pitched six innings in one rehab start and five in the other. Plus, he would be a better option to start games than Jeff Locke.

Next: Who The Pirates Have Scouted So Far

The upcoming trade deadline should also benefit the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neal Huntington is doing his due diligence to try and acquire much needed pitching help for the Pirates. Even though the Pirate rotation is getting reinforcements from within and the bullpen has been better, both could still use an exterior boost.

If past years are of any indication, then odds are the Pirates will be very active between now and August 1st. With the exception of 2014, Neal Huntington has made at least two deadline trades each year the Pirates have been in contention (2011-2015). For this reason, I fully expect Huntington to add at least one arm in the next 13 days.

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently sit three games out of a postseason spot, but the time for that to change has come. The Pirates’ upcoming schedule is much simpler, their starting rotation is getting internal reinforcements, I expect Neal Huntington to add pitching reinforcements from outside the organization in the next 13 days, players are coming off the disabled list, and their lineup has been strong all season long. It is time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to make hay.