Pittsburgh Pirates Set To Do Battle With The San Francisco Giants
After taking two of three from the Dodgers in Los Angeles over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates travel to San Francisco to play the Giants.
Fresh off a series victory in Los Angeles, the Pittsburgh Pirates will travel up the California coast to the city by the bay to battle the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates and Giants will start a three game series at 10:15 PM tonight. They will follow it up with another 10:15 game on Tuesday night, and then a 3:45 PM series finale on Thursday afternoon.
The San Francisco Giants enter this series with a record of 68-51 on the season. This is good for first place in the National League West. The Giants currently sit one game ahead of the aforementioned Dodgers in the West.
This is an important series for each team. While a postseason spot is all but guaranteed for the Giants, they find themselves in a dog fight for a division championship. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a fight just to make the postseason. Currently, the Pirates sit one and a half games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League’s second, and final, Wild Card spot.
This will be the second series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants this season. The two teams met in Pittsburgh for a four game series from June 20th through the 23rd. The Pirates took game one 1-0 when Jeff Locke, somehow, out-dueled Madison Bumgarner and, even more miraculously, Erik Kratz hit a solo home run for the game’s only run. However, the Giants went one to win the next three games and the series.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing much better baseball now than they were in June though. Also, in recent years the Pirates have had a lot of success in San Francisco. The Pirates have won each of their last three series played at AT&T Park. This includes sweeping the Giants in San Francisco last season.
The Giants are a team that is led by their offense. Their lineup is, of course, anchored by former National League MVP Buster Posey. In my opinion, Posey is the best two-way catcher in all of baseball. This season Posey is having another great season with a .349 wOBA, 124 wRC+, and a career best 11.3 percent walk rate.
Giant shortstop Brandon Crawford continues to be one of the game’s most underrated players. To go along with being a Gold Glove caliber defender, Crawford has a .325 wOBA and a 108 wRC+ this season. Also, his 4.4 WAR is just 0.3 points lower than the career high 4.7 he posted last season. So, he will shatter that mark this season.
However, the Giants’ best hitter this season has been first baseman Brandon Belt. Belt has a .376 wOBA, 143 wRC+, an elite 15.8 percent walk rate, and a .206 ISO. Even though Belt does not get near the national attention he deserves, he has been a great hitter for the Giants for four years now.
The Giants’ lineup also features Hunter Pence (.339 wOBA, 118 wRC+) and Angel Pagan (.336 wOBA, 115 wRC+). Plus, despite having down seasons, Joe Panik and Denard Span can still be threats as well. So, needless to say, this Giants’ team can hit.
Somewhat surprisingly, their pitching has really struggled this season. The Giant rotation is anchored by one of the best one-two punches in the Majors in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. However, thankfully, the Pittsburgh Pirates will miss both of those starting pitchers in this series.
The Pittsburgh Pirates need to take advantage of missing both Bumgarner and Cueto in this series. The Pirates will face Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Cain. All three of these pitchers have had their fair share of struggles this season.
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The San Francisco Giants acquired Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays just minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline on August 1st. Between the Rays and Giants, the former American League Rookie of the Year has struggled this season. In 142 innings pitched Moore has a 4.42 FIP and a 4.74 xFIP. In his two starts with the Giants, Moore has walked 11 batters in 12 innings pitched.
Jeff Samardzija is a pitcher that gave the Pirates’ fits for years when he was a member of the Chicago Cubs. However, in his one start against the Pirates this year he lasted just three innings allowing six runs. For the season Samardzija has a 4.36 FIP, 4.30 xFIP, and is averaging just 6.57 K/9.
Finally, there is Matt Cain who has been an utter disaster this season. In recent years Cain’s once promising career has been derailed by injuries. So far, 2016 has been the worst season of his Major League career.
In 79 innings pitched Cain has a 5.29 FIP, 4.83 xFIP, and he is allowing 1.71 HR/9. Also, Cain has induced weak contact at just a 17.5 percent rate this season. Hopefully, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be able to jump on Cain early and often on Wednesday.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will counter with a trio of right-handed starting pitchers. They will be Ryan Vogelsong (3.85 FIP, 4.18 xFIP) on Monday night, Jameson Taillon (3.54 FIP, 3.19 xFIP) on Tuesday night, and Ivan Nova (4.11 FIP, 4.03 xFIP) on Wednesday afternoon. All three of these pitchers are having much better seasons than the pitchers the Giants will start. Hopefully, that will bode well for the Pirates.
This upcoming series against the San Francisco Giants is a big one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Well, each series is a big series when you are in the postseason race and there are just 47 games remaining in the season. On paper, the pitching matchups in this series favor the Bucs all week long. Hopefully, that leads to a Pirate series victory.