Pittsburgh Pirates to Begin 3 Game Series in San Diego

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 24: Andrew McCutchen
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 24: Andrew McCutchen /

The current 9 game road trip that the Pittsburgh Pirates are on will wrap up this weekend in San Diego against the lowly Padres

After a disappointing series loss to the 40-63 San Francisco Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates will look to bounce back this weekend when they head to San Diego. The Bucs will play a 3 game series at Petco Park against the 45-57 Padres. This is a series the Pirates can not afford to lose.

As this series begins, the Pittsburgh Pirates own a 50-52 record. This puts them in a tie for third place in the National League Central, 4.5 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs. The Pirates have a soft schedule the next few weeks that they must take advantage of, and that includes this weekend against the Padres.

To put it lightly, the San Diego Padres are a bad team. They rank dead last in the National League in runs scored with 392 and their .301 team on-base percentage is last in the league as well. Playing at the spacious Petco Park certainly does not help.

As for their pitching, it has not been much better. They rank 13th in the National League in team ERA (4.75), 12th in home runs allowed (1.34 HR/9), and 12th in pitching fWAR (4.7). The Padres also just traded three of their best pitchers to the Kansas City Royals. These three pitchers were starting pitcher Trevor Cahill, and relievers Brandon Maurer and Ryan Butcher.

More from Rum Bunter

Game 1 of the series is scheduled for 10:10 PM in the East on Friday night. Long time National League Central nemesis Travis Wood will start for the Padres. Meanwhile, the Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound.

This will be Travis Wood’s Padre debut after being involved in their recent trade with the Kansas City Royals. Wood is a pitcher the Pirates have seen plenty of over the years as he spent the first 7 years of his career in the National League Central.

In 28 games for the Royals this season, 3 of which were starts, Wood pitched 41 2/3 innings. In these 41 2/2 innings pitched he averaged 6.26 K/9, 4.32 BB/9, and he allowed an average of 0.86 HR/9. This came out to Wood owning a 6.91 ERA, 4.52 FIP, and a 5.55 xFIP.

Look for the Pittsburgh Pirates to roll with a right-handed heavy lineup on Friday night. This season, right-handed hitters own a .500 slugging percentage and a .391 wOBA against Travis Wood.

Chad Kuhl will be making his 21st start of the season for the Pirates on Friday night. In 97 innings pitched this season he owns a 4.91 ERA, however, this does not tell the entire story for Kuhl. As his 4.04 FIP indicates, he has pitched much better than his ERA would lead one to believe.

Chad Kuhl has pitched exceptionally well the past 2 months. In his last 9 starts he owns a 3.78 ERA and a 3.89 FIP in 47 2/3 innings pitched. He is averaging 7.55 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, and has allowed just 4 home runs in these 9 starts.

Saturday night’s 8:10 PM game will feature a pitching matchup of Dinelson Lamet and Ivan Nova.

Dinelson Lamet has pitched 51 2/3 innings in 10 starts this season. The 25-year old rookie owns a 5.92 ERA and a 4.57 FIP, however, he can be a tough shell to crack at times. While he is averaging 3.48 BB/9 this season, he is also averaging 11.85 K/9 as a rookie.

Where Lamet has run into trouble is with the long ball. In his 51 2/3 innings pitched he has allowed 11 home runs this season. Walks have also been problematic as he has walked 21 hitters in his 51 2/3 innings pitched.

As for Ivan Nova, he will be looking to bounce back from a 3 month long swoon. Since the start of May Ivan Nova has pitched 95 2/3 innings in 15 starts. In these 15 starts he has been the bad pitcher he was in New York before he was traded to Pittsburgh last July.

Ivan Nova owns a 4.42 ERA and a 4.78 FIP in these 15 starts. He is averaging just 5.27 K/9, he has allowed 110 hits, and he is averaging 1.51 HR/9. All of these numbers are very poor. His 33.0 percent hard contact rate during this stretch is extremely alarming as well.

Hopefully, Ivan Nova can get things turned around. If he has reverted back to the pitcher he was his entire career outside of July and August of 2016 and April of 2017, then the Pittsburgh Pirates are stuck with an albatross of a contract for 2018 and 2019.

Sunday afternoon’s 4:40 series finale features a pitching matchup of Clayton Richard and Gerrit Cole. On paper, this is a game the Pirates should win easily.

DENVER, CO – JULY 19: Starting pitcher Clayton Richard
DENVER, CO – JULY 19: Starting pitcher Clayton Richard /

In 21 starts, and 127 1/3 innings pitched, this season Clayton Richard has struggled for the Padres. He has averaged 6.36 K/9, 2.62 B/9, and has struggled with the long ball allowing 1.20 HR/9. He has also allowed a whopping 168 hits in his 127 1/3 innings pitched.

All of this has come out to Richard owning a 5.37 ERA and a 4.46 FIP. His 33.3 percent hard contact rate allowed is way too high as well. There is no reason the Pirate offense should not have a successful day on Sunday afternoon.

As for Gerrit Cole, after a rough patch in late May and early June he is starting to right the ship. In his last 8 starts Cole owns a 3.04 ERA and a 3.45 FIP in 50 1/3 innings pitched. Most encouragingly, his home run rate has been 0.89 HR/9 in these starts after being 1.77 HR/9 his first 13 starts.

Overall this season, Cole owns a 4.12 ERA and a 4.20 FIP in 126 2/3 innings pitched. He is averaging a healthy 7.96 K/9, and his 2.20 BB/9 is very strong as well. His 3.84 xFIP indicates that he should continue to pitch better moving forward.

Outfielder Jordan Luplow is being promoted to the Major Leagues by the Pittsburgh Pirates today. He is set to make his Major League debut this weekend, and there is a good shot he will start at least twice. With the Padres sending a left-handed pitcher to the mound on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon, starting Luplow in right field would make sense.

As was covered above, the Padre lineup has struggled all season long. The team’s best hitter, Wil Myers, has had a very mediocre season posting a 107 wRC+ and a .336 wOBA. His power, however, has remained as he owns a .219 ISO and has hit a team leading 20 home runs.

Outfielder Matt Szczur (125 wRC+, .363 wOBA), outfielder Jose Pirela (110 wRC+, .341 wOBA), and infielder Carlos Asuaje (110 wRC+, .340 wOBA) have all had good seasons too. Utility man Yangervis Solarte has been on the disabled list since June, which has been a big blow to the Padre lineup.

Next: A Deeper Look at Jordan Luplow

This weekend’s series in San Diego is an important one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Entering the series 4.5 games out of first place in the National League Central the Bucs can not afford a series loss against a team as bad as the Padres. Winning at least 2 out of 3 is a necessity this weekend.