On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be looking to cap off the most vital road trip of the season thus far by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals.
Before this current seven game road trip began for the Pittsburgh Pirates I said it could be a season defining one. The Pirates started the road trip with a record of 31-38 and were coming off a disappointing 5-5 homestand.
When the road trip began, the Pittsburgh Pirates were six games out of first place in the National League Central. However, after splitting a four game series with the Milwaukee Brewers and winning the first two games of their current three game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates now find themselves four games out of first place.
Regardless of what happens tonight, the Pittsburgh Pirates will finish this road trip with a winning record. However, finishing off a sweep of the Cardinals tonight to go 5-2 would be better than losing and going 4-3.
Tonight’s game, however, will not be an easy one. Longtime Pirate killer Mike Leake is scheduled to start for the Cardinals. And to boot, Leake is having the best season of his Major League career.
In 14 starts this season Leake has pitched 92 innings. He is averaging 6.46 K/9 and 1.76 BB/9, both of which are the second best rates of his career. Meanwhile, his 0.88 HR/9 is a new career low.
Mike Leake currently owns a 3.03 ERA and a 3.66 FIP, both of which are career bests. He is also inducing groundballs at a career best 55.2 percent rate. It goes without saying that the Pirate offense will have its work cut out for them tonight.
Luckily for the Pirates, they have had one of the best offenses in the National League in the month of June. So far this month the Pirates have scored 108 runs which is fifth most in the National League. Their team wRC+ of 105 is also fifth in the National League during the month of June.
Chad Kuhl will start for Clint Hurdle and the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. In his first 14 starts this season Kuhl has pitched 64 1/3 innings. He is averaging 7.41 K/9, 3.78 BB/9, and 0.98 HR/9. He owns a 5.46 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and a 4.96 xFIP.
While is overall numbers do not look sparkling, as was discussed here, Kuhl has pitched better than most people realize in 2017. His biggest issue has been an inability to pitch deep into games. After pitching 6 1/3 innings and then 6 innings in his second and third starts this season, he has not gone more than 5 innings since. This is something the Pirates and Kuhl would love to have change.
A big step toward the Pittsburgh Pirates finishing off a sweep of the Cardinals tonight would be Chad Kuhl pitching 6+ innings. Especially since the Pirate bullpen has had to do plenty of work during a 17 games in 17 days stretch that ends tonight for the Pirates.
Win or lose tonight this road trip has been a success for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they have already clinched a winning record and have made up ground on the first place Brewers. However, 5-2 on the trip and 36-40 overall is better than 4-3 and 35-41. Also, sweeping the dirty, rotten, evil, vile, no good St. Louis Cardinals is always fun.
First pitch from Busch Stadium is scheduled for 8:15 PM, and the game will be on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.