Pittsburgh Pirates Prepare For First Trip To Cincinnati In 2017


The Pittsburgh Pirates will do battle with one of their biggest foes this week

Over the weekend the Pittsburgh Pirates started their 7 game road trip by taking 2 of 3 from the Miami Marlins. By winning the series, the Bucs finished the season’s opening month with a record of 11-13.

Part of the reason the Pirates were under .500 in the month of April was a sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on April 10th through the 13th. The Pirates will get a chance at revenge this week as they will travel to Great American Ballpark for a 4 game series with the Reds which starts tonight at 7:10 PM.

Despite being projected to finish last in the National League Central, the Reds got off to a great start this season. The Reds started the season 7-2, and the Pirates simply caught them at the worst possible time in their first series.

Since sweeping the Pirates, however, the Reds have started to look like the last place team they were projected to be. The Reds are just 4-11 since sweeping the Pirates and have fallen to 11-13 on the season.

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Game 1 of the series will feature a pitching matchup between two pitchers trending in opposite directions. These two pitchers are Gerrit Cole and Amir Garrett.

After a pair of iffy starts to begin his 2017 campaign, Gerrit Cole has been dominant his past three outings. In these starts, he has a 2.63 FIP in 19 innings pitched. He has struck out 21 batters, walked 3, and he’s allowed just 2 home runs.

Meanwhile, Amir Garrett is coming off the worst start of his Major League career. In first three career starts, he allowed just 4 runs on 14 hits and 21 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings pitched. However, his most recent start was a disaster. Last Monday he allowed 9 runs on 10 hits and 4 walks against the Minnesota Twins. Garrett now owns a 4.39 FIP in 23 innings pitched this season.

Game 2 of the series will feature Tyler Glasnow making his second career start against the Cincinnati Reds, while the Reds will counter with veteran right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman.

Tyler Glasnow made his first start of the season against the Reds and, as you probably remember, it went disastrously. In 1 2/3 innings pitched he allowed 5 runs on 4 hits, 5 walks, and just 1 strikeout.

Glasnow has been better in his 3 starts since then, however, posting a 3.84 FIP and 11.08 K/9 in these starts. This included having a start against the New York Yankees cut short by at least an inning due to poor defense. Hopefully, Glasnow will continue to trend upward on Tuesday.

In 5 starts this season Scott Feldman owns a 4.08 FIP and a 4.30 xFIP in 27 2/3 innings pitched. While he is averaging just 0.98 HR/9, he is walking 4.23 batters per 9 innings pitched. Patience will be key for Pirate hitters on Tuesday night.

Game 3 will be on Wednesday night. The pitching matchup will feature a pair of right-handed starting pitchers in Jameson Taillon and Rookie Davis.

Jameson Taillon has been phenomenal so far in 2017. Through 5 starts he has pitched 30 1/3 innings, he is averaging 7.12 K/9, 3.56 BB/9, and 0.59 HR/9. He owns a 55.2 percent ground ball rate, 3.56 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, and he’s already accumulated a 0.5 WAR. Outside of some control issues, Taillon has been lights out in 2017.

As for Rookie Davis, he has struggled immensely. He has pitched just 9 2/3 innings in his 3 starts and he owns a 7.34 FIP, a 5.37 xFIP, and he’s already allowed 3 home runs. He is also averaging 6.52 BB/9, there is no reason the Pirate offense should not have a big night on Wednesday night.

The series finale will be at 12:35 PM on Thursday afternoon. Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates, while the Reds starter is still listed as TBD. This is due to the Reds having a rainout over the weekend with the Cardinals.

Ivan Nova has been the Pirates’ best starting pitcher so far in 2017. He currently ranks second in the National League in innings pitched (36), he has issued the second fewest walks in the NL (0.25 BB/9), he is sixth in FIP (2.66), and he is the only starting pitcher in the NL with multiple complete games this season.

If Ivan Nova keeps doing what he has done, regardless of who the Reds start on Thursday afternoon you have to like the Pirates’ chances at earning a victory.

As always at Great American Small, I mean ball, park a key will be the home run ball. GABP is arguably the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the National League. Many balls that are routine flyouts elsewhere fly into the seats in Cincinnati. This makes both containing the Reds’ home runs and hitting home runs for yourself key in every series in the Queen City.

While the Pirate offense struggled in April, it is trending in the right direction. Their past 9 games the Pirates are averaging 4.6 runs per game. This increased offensive production is a big reason why the Pirates are 5-4 in their past 9 games.

Apr 30, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) scores as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) looks on during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) scores as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) looks on during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

In order to be successful in Cincinnati this week, the Pirate offense will have to remain hot. As long as Josh Bell, Andrew McCutchen, and Josh Harrison continue their strong performances of the past few weeks this has a good chance of happening. Gregory Polanco also appears to be heating up, 4-for-12 with 3 doubles, 2 walks, an HBP over the weekend, which would be a huge boost for the Pirate lineup.

Another key in this series will be containing Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto. While Hamilton is one of the worst hitters in the National League, he has always killed Pirate pitching. Hamilton is off to a miserable start this season with a .265 on-base percentage, 18.4 percent strikeout rate, and a wRC+ of 37 in 103 plate appearances.

Despite this, Hamilton killed the Pirates in their 3 game series in April. 5 of the 20 hits Hamilton has collected this season came in that series, he also collected 2 of his 10 stolen bases and 2 of his 3 RBIs in that 3 game series.

As for Joey Votto, the future Hall of Famer is off to a great start this season. Votto owns a .337 on-base percentage, .375 wOBA, and a 129 wRC+ through his first 104 plate appearances this season. He has also hit 8 home runs, to go along with an ISO of .322.

Keeping Hamilton off the bases and containing Votto will be two big steps toward a series victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Next: Can Josh Harrison Sustain His Hot Start?

When the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds locked horns at PNC Park a few weeks ago the Pirates were catching the Reds at the worst possible time. This week, it is the complete opposite. The Reds are starting to look like the last place team they were projected to be. and the Pirates have a great shot to take 3 of 4 this week and come back home with a .500 record.