Pittsburgh Pirates Host Reds In An Attempt at Damage Limitation
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in quite the predicament. At 68-69 and 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, the Bucs have a choice to make. Do they keep pushing to maybe sneak into the playoffs? Or do they get some of their younger prospects some playing time in an attempt to set the team up for 2017? Only time will tell, but as Cincinnati comes to town this week for a four-game series, here is what to watch for.
Did anyone else cry during the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game against St. Louis, or was that just me? It’s hard to keep the faith at times like these, but maybe a long series against a pretty bad Cincinnati team is just what the Pittsburgh Pirates need. I know the team is struggling right now, but a four-game sweep is a real possibility this weekend. That might be season-saving, if the season is savable at this point.
Cincinnati is 57-81 this season and coming off of being swept by the Mets last series. A weak lineup and average pitching means yet another season in NL Central squalor for the Reds, so let’s hope the Buccos can take advantage this weekend. Here is what to watch for.
Thursday: Dan Straily (11-7, 3.83) vs. Ivan Nova (4-0, 2.89)
Friday: Tim Adleman (2-3, 4.02) vs. Steven Brault (0-2, 3.32)
Saturday: Robert Stephenson (2-1, 3.12) vs. Chad Kuhl (3-3, 4.09)
Sunday: Brandon Finnegan (8-10, 4.17) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (3-4, 4.07)
Instead of choosing one matchup to look at and dissect in depth, let’s just say that we hope for a better series from the Pirates’ pitching staff as a whole. That St. Louis series was hopefully just an aberration and that it never happens. No matter the opponent, 24 runs given up is not good for one series. Chad Kuhl’s start was disastrous, and Vogelsong’s was pretty poor as well.
Cincinnati’s lineup is no St. Louis. It’s actually pretty bad. Cincinnati is 20th in the MLB in batting average (.252), 18th in runs per game (4.4), and 21st in home runs per game (1.04). Cincy is certainly not the worst, but they’re definitely not as good as St. Louis. This could be a good pick-me-up series for the Pirates’ staff.
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Players to Watch
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte
Thank goodness for Jung Ho Kang. If he didn’t exist, I think the Pirates might have sent me spiraling into a sadness that only a video of Randall Simon hitting the sausage in Milwaukee could pull me out of. Kang looked incredible, hitting three home runs over the series. It also seemed as though he was especially amped up, showing emotion I haven’t seen from him since he exploded in a game last season vs. Arizona and sent a bucket of Double Bubble flying with a perfectly-placed helmet throw. Good. It’s nice to see some emotion during a seemingly dead series.
Starling Marte will be out of the lineup Thursday with back spasms. This has apparently been bothering him for at least a few days as he was not used Tuesday. Hopefully this does not become a recurring issue, because the Pirates need their best player (yeah, I said it) at full health if they are to have any shot at a postseason berth.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto
Billy Hamilton is annoying, I know. But one of these times, he has to play to his abilities and have a bad series against the Bucs. The Reds don’t have much great talent. It was difficult to choose two players to watch. So if the pitching staff can keep Hamilton and his league-leading 58 steals off the basepaths, we have a good chance at a fruitful series result. I can dream. (he is not starting tonight)
I dislike the guy as much as the next Pirates fan, but it’s hard not to think Joey Votto deserves better. He is hitting .312 this year, with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs, and could be a really good piece for a contender. But unfortunately for him, it doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere. Ever. He’s stuck in Cincinnati until 2022 and he’ll be 38 years old when that runs out. Poor Votto.
A series win this weekend is imperative if the Pirates want to even come close to the postseason. These types of series are so important: beating teams you should beat. Even though the Pirates are under .500 and not playing well, they should definitely beat these Reds.
Bucs take 3 of 4 from Cincinnati this weekend and resume their hopes and dreams for a playoff spot. For now.