Pittsburgh Pirates: Series 2
The Pittsburgh Pirates finished their opening series against the Chicago Cubs in disappointing fashion losing the final game 3-2. The Pirates bats have yet to really wake up as they combined to score a total of 6 runs in the 3 games against the Cubs. However, the pitching has been there, as Pirates pitching only allowed 6 runs in two games. The Pirates almost mounted a comeback yesterday off of frustrating Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. Marmol’s outing only further cements Cubs fans position on their closer, thinking he is just way to wild to close. He allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and 1 walk in his very shaky save. It really was an opening series for the Pirates because the offense still is catching up to speed with opposing pitching. The two positives I see from the series is: Andrew McCutchen has found his base stealing prowess again, stealing 4 bases over the series. The second positive is how well the pitching has been. Monday, A.J. Burnett only allowed 3 runs while striking out 10 and the bullpen took over from there. Tuesday, left Wandy Rodriguez was brilliant, tossing 6.2 innings of shut out ball while striking out 6 Cubs batters. Yesterday, James McDonald was even better than Rodriguez, going 7 innings and allowing one run on 2 hits while striking out 4. However, Jared Hughes had a rough outing and allowed a two run homer to Nate Schierholtz which proved to be the difference and McDonald was saddled with a tough luck loss.
Now that the first series of the year is out of the way, the Pirates make a trip out west to play the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, two series in which the Pirates will run into some good pitching. Here is the breakdown for the upcoming series with the Dodgers.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, when you play the Dodgers, you will run into 5 aces. Tonight happens to be the Dodgers debut of Zack Greinke, and Greinke has Cy Young stuff when healthy. The Pirates send Jonathan Sanchez to the mound who was probably one of the biggest pitching disappointments for the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies last season as he had an 8.07ERA in 15 starts between his two ball clubs. However, Jonathan Sanchez has quite a bit of experience against the Dodgers and pitching in Dodger Stadium, with his time with the San Francisco Giants. Sanchez will need to recapture his form that made him a solid back of the rotation option with the Giants if he wants to stick around in the Pirates rotation much past April.
In this game, I am looking for Andrew McCutchen to continue his aggressive base stealing by swiping a bag or two tonight while chipping in offensively. If the Pirates want to have a chance in this game, score some runs for Sanchez early and get get to Greinke before he really settles in. If Greinke settles in, it could be lights out.
Game 2- A.J. Burnett– RHP vs. Clayton Kershaw– LHP, 9:10PM(EST)
Ok, now this isn’t even fair. Zack Greinke Friday night, and Saturday night, Clayton Kershaw? Yup, Kershaw absolutely dazzled in his opening day start, tossing a complete game shutout of the Giants. He also chipped in with a home run. The Pirates counter with their ace A.J Burnett who was solid in his opening day start. The Pirates will need Burnett to be solid in this game if they want any chance of beating Kershaw. In my opinion, one way to beat Kershaw is playing small ball. Utilize the speed in the lineup, drop some bunts and get some cheap base hits and make Kershaw field his position. You have to get Kershaw out of his rhythm and comfort zone to have any chance. That is all easier said than done.
Bottom Line: Burnett needs to come up with a marvelous start and the Pirates have to hope they catch Kershaw on an off day which doesn’t happen very often. Russell Martin could be a huge part of the success of the Pirates in this game and series as he returns to Dodger Stadium, where he was an all star. Martin will hopefully bring his power bat to L.A and call a good game for Burnett to settle in early. If the Pirates don’t get to Kershaw, we could see another dominant Clayton Kershaw start.
Game 3- Jeff Locke– LHP vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu- LHP, 4:10PM(EST)
On paper, this could be the Pirates best chance at taking a win from L.A. Ryu made his major league debut on Tuesday night and gave up 3 runs (only 1 earned) on 10 hits. He also added 5 K’s to his line. Ryu admitted post game that he was nervous but still managed to have a nice debut. The 10 hits allowed, however, is where the Pirates may be able to capitalize. If Ryu serves up another hittable ball game against him, the Pirates need to take advantage by getting men on base and hitting with runners in scoring position. If they do this, they should be able to put some runs on the board and support their starter, Jeff Locke. Locke entered the rotation late last season and pitched decently. He was the most consistent Pirates pitcher in the Spring and looks to continue to steer the ship in the right direction to establish himself as a reliable 5th starter for the Pirates. I think Locke will come and out not be fazed by the scary Dodgers lineup and pitch a good ball game. 6 innings of 2 run ball for Locke on Sunday would be excellent, and should put the Pirates in solid position to take this game.
If the Pirates can capitalize on Ryu throwing up some hittable balls, we could see a nice game from the Pirates offense. I look for some of the secondary guys to come through with some timely hits. Starling Marte and Clint Barmes will have nice games Sunday and I really think the Pirates can take this game from the Dodgers.
Dodgers win the series 2-1 on the strength of their rotation but the Pirates will make Greinke earn it on Friday. Kershaw will have another good outing and Ryu will struggle.
Wishful thinking: The Pirates take 2/3 by getting to Greinke early and Ryu on Sunday. They score runs off Kershaw but he still is good enough to go 7 innings.