Pittsburgh Pirates Travel To Baltimore For Brief 2 Game Series


The Pittsburgh Pirates are preparing for a brief stint of interleague play

Tonight, the Pittsburgh Pirates start a brief 2 game series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Pirates enter this series with a record of just 26-31 on the season, however, they are just 3.5 games out of first place in the National League Central.

As for the Baltimore Orioles, they enter at 29-26. Like the Pirates, the Orioles find themselves 3.5 games out of first place in the American League East.

Game 1 of the series is scheduled for 7:05 tonight. Ivan Nova is slated to start for the Pittsburgh Pirates, while the Baltimore Orioles plan to go with Kevin Gausman.

Ivan Nova, of course, has been excellent this season. In 11 starts he has pitched 77 innings, posting a 2.92 ERA, 3.17 FIP, and a 1.8 fWAR. All of these numbers rank in the top 8 in the National League.

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Nova is generating ground balls at a 50.2 percent rate, and is allowing just 0.58 HR/9. While Nova’s home run rate ranks in the top 5 in the National League, his 0.70 BB/9 is the best in the National League.

As for Kevin Gausman, things have not gone as well. He has pitched 59 1/3 innings in 12 starts and owns a 5.92 ERA and a 5.29 FIP. He is averaging 4.10 BB/9 and 1.52 HR/9. Whenever a pitcher is walking a lot of batters and allowing a lot of home runs, things are not going to go well. So far this season, things have not gone well for Gausman.

The Pirates are coming off a series in which they averaged 8.3 runs per game against the New York Mets. When you combine this with the struggles of Gausman, there is plenty of reason to believe that tonight could be a big night for the Bucco bats.

Wednesday’s game is also scheduled for 7:05 PM. The pitching match up is slated to be Chad Kuhl against Wade Miley.

2017 has been a sophomore slump of a season for Chad Kuhl. The young righty owns a 6.02 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and a 4.99 xFIP in 49 1/3 innings pitched. While his 7.30 K/9 is an  walk more per inning over 2016. His 38.9 percent ground ball rate is also nearly 5 percentage points lower than last season.

As for Miley, he has had a strong 2017 campaign thus far. Miley owns a 2.82 ERA in his 11 starts (60 2/3 innings pitched). However, he is due for regression. His 4.40 FIP indicates he has not pitched as well as his ERA indicates, and his 4.08 xFIP indicates that his ERA is not sustainable.

A big issue for Miley has been walks. He is averaging 4.75 BB/9. If Pirate hitters are patient on Wednesday night, they should find success against the Baltimore southpaw.

Since this series is being played at an American League ballpark, that means the Pirates will need a designated hitter for the series. Look for John Jaso to DH against the right-handed Kevin Gausman tonight, while Jose Osuna gets the call against the lefty Miley on Wednesday.

Andrew McCutchen enters this series riding a hot streak. The past 9 games he owns a .500 on-base percentage, .742 slugging percentage, a .500 wOBA, and a wRC+ 218. He has also hit 3 home runs during this stretch.

May 22, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini (16) hits an RBI double in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini (16) hits an RBI double in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

In recent years, the Orioles’ bread and butter has been their offense. However, their lineup has struggled thus far in 2017. Despite being 6th in the American League in home runs (76), the O’s currently rank just 12th in runs scored (244) and 13th in on-base percentage (.309). If the Pirates can limit the long ball, they should be able to contain the Baltimore lineup the next 2 days.

The biggest reason for the drop off in production in the Oriole offense is the struggling Manny Machado. Machado owns just a 94 wRC+ this season, which is by far the worst of his career. However, he is tied with Chris Davis for the team lead in home runs with 12.

The Orioles’ best hitter this year has been rookie Trey Mancini. The 25-year old outfielder/DH leads the team with a 125 wRC+ and a .357 wOBA. However, he owns a very alarming 26.4 percent strikeout rate.

As a team, the Orioles strikeout a lot. Their team strikeout rate is 23.3 percent which is the 4th highest strikeout rate in the American League.

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Another key to beating the Orioles is to try and get into their bullpen. While it has not been anywhere near as bad as the Mets’ bullpen the Pirates just spent the weekend beating up on, it has been, at best, very mediocre.

Baltimore’s bullpen ranks 7th in the American League in ERA (3.96), 8th in walks allowed (3.41 BB/9), 9th in FIP (4.01) and xFIP (4.34). The Orioles have also been very mediocre defensively this season, ranking 9th in the American League in defensive runs saved with 2.