The Pittsburgh Pirates face a tall task this week as the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town
At a staggering 87-35 the Los Angeles Dodgers are by far the best team in Major League Baseball. This week, they come to PNC Park to play a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. This series begins at 7:05 on Monday night.
With their 87-35 record, the Dodgers own a 20 game lead in the National League West. What makes this even more impressive is that the second place Colorado Rockies own the third best record in the National League Central at 68-56.
As for the Pittsburgh Pirates, they enter this series in fourth place in the National League Central. Their 60-64 record puts them 6.5 games out of first place in the division. The Pirates are coming off splitting a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Pirate victories came in the final two games of the series.
Entering this series, the Dodgers have scored 621 runs which is third most in the National League and their 175 home runs rank sixth in the league. Their offense has been led by rookie sensation Cody Bellinger who has hit 34 home runs and owns a .393 wOBA and a 146 wRC+. Bellinger is the reason that Josh Bell will not win National League Rookie of the Year.
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Cody Bellinger is far from the only dangerous hitter in the Dodger lineup. Justin Turner (.414 wOBA, 160 wRC+), Austin Barnes (.394 wOBA, 147 wRC+), Chris Taylor (.393 wOBA, 146 wRC+), and Corey Seager (.384, 140 wRC+) are all having fantastic seasons as well. Additionally, over the weekend they traded for Curtis Granderson from the New York Mets.
The Dodger bullpen has also been excellent this season. They lead the National League in bullpen ERA (3.02), FIP (3.46), walk rate (2.62 BB/9), and strikeout rate (10.06 K/9). Los Angeles also leads the league in starting rotation ERA and FIP. It goes without saying both the Pirate offense and pitching staff will have their hands full this week.
The first game of this series will feature a pitching matchup of Gerrit Cole and lefty Alex Wood. Very quietly, Wood has established himself as one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in the National League in recent years. 2017 has been the best season of his career.
Alex Wood has pitched 117 1/3 innings in 21 games (19 starts) this season. He is averaging 9.36 K/9, 2.30 BB/9, and allowing just 0.54 HR/9. He owns a 2.30 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and a 3.03 xFIP. All of these numbers are career bests for Wood minus his strikeout rate, which is the second-highest of his five-year Major League career.
The 2017 season has been an inconsistent one for Gerrit Cole. He has been plagued by the long ball all season as he is allowing 1.52 HR/9. This has led to his ERA ballooning to 4.04 this season and his FIP to 4.30. However, his 8.26 K/9 and 2.23 BB/9 are both very strong.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be victorious on Monday night, they need good Gerrit Cole as the offense will have their hands full against Alex Wood.
Monday night could be the start of a rough week for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Los Angeles Dodgers are by far the best team in baseball and have already swept the Pirates once this season. This steep mountain to climb will start by facing one of the best lefties in the National League in Alex Wood on Monday night.