While things certainly could have gone better this past weekend at Great American Ballpark against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates still managed to salvage the series and avoid the sweep yesterday afternoon, led by another dominating performance by A.J. Burnett and clutch hitting by Neil Walker and Starling Marte. Burnett won his 14th game of the season, tying him for the league lead, while Joel Hanrahan earned his 32nd save of the year by getting the final out of the ballgame.
The Pirates are 4.5 games behind the Reds in the N.L. Central, but do still own one of the Wild Card spots along with the Atlanta Braves. Andrew McCutchen snapped out of a minor “slump” by hitting his 23rd homerun of the season in the ninth inning yesterday, while Walker hit his 12th homerun of the season, a two-run round-tripper that put the Bucs in the lead early. McCutchen and Walker have both matched their highest single season homerun totals…and we’re still in early August.
Pedro Alvarez has hit a bump in the road at the plate…so much so in fact, that Clint Hurdle sat him out of yesterday’s game. Rod Barajas continues to struggle offensively while Michael McKenry may be earning future starts down the road, swinging one of the hottest bats on the team. Garrett Jones, meanwhile, continues to prove himself as a valuable contributor, and should be considered as an everyday player at this point, whether it’s in right field or at first base.
But the key to this season down the stretch in the final two months is going to be the pitching staff, in particular the starting rotation, which after a few months of domination, has come back to earth a bit in recent weeks. A.J. Burnett, of course, has been the team’s ace, while Wandy Rodriguez, despite battling control issues, has been solidly for the most part in his first pair of starts with the Pirates. Kevin Correia, before being moved to the bullpen, had won six straight games, and will make a spot start this week against the Diamondbacks. Jeff Karstens has been solid this season as well, while James McDonald took a step forward this past weekend in Cincinnati, but certainly still has work to do. As for Erik Bedard, well, it’s a roll of the dice every time he takes the mound. His current 5-12 record sure isn’t what the Pirates, or their fans, were hoping for when they picked him up in the offseason.
Diamondbacks (55-53) vs. Pirates (61-46)
About the Diamondbacks…
55-53 Record, 3rd In N.L. Central
Last Series: Lost two of three games @ Philadelphia Phillies
It was almost inevitable that the Diamondbacks would have a letdown year in 2012. After all, they monumentally overachieving season last year, advancing to the postseason while surpassing everyone’s expectations on their way to the N.L. West title. This year, though, they’ve struggled to maintain a winning record, and have been battling the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers since April.
The Diamondbacks’ hottest month this year was in June, posting a 16-10, but they haven’t been able to put a significant string of victories together to make a serious run for playoff positioning. Still, they’re only four games back of the division-leading Giants, but are 6.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot.
Offensively, Arizona has become the three-headed “monster” of Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, and Paul Goldschmidt. On the mound, Wade Miley leads the club in wins (12) and ERA (2.98), while J.J. Putz has been an adequately impressive closer, notching 20 saves so far this season.
Remaining only a handful of games back in the division, the D-Backs have a lot to play for, and they do typically play the Pirates tough whether it’s home or away. In their only other meeting this season, the Bucs took two of three games in Arizona back in April.
8/6 – Wade Miley (ARI) (12-6, 2.98 ERA, 95 K, 24 BB, WHIP 1.08) vs. Erik Bedard (PIT) (5-12, 4.83 ERA, 100 K, 47 BB, WHIP 1.48)
8/7 – Patrick Corbin (ARI) (3-4, 3.60 ERA, 35 K, 15 BB, WHIP 1.27) vs. Jeff Karstens (PIT) (4-2, 3.70 ERA, 42 K, 13 BB, WHIP 1.20)
8/8 – Ian Kennedy (ARI) (10-8, 4.15 ERA, 123 K, 28 BB, WHIP 1.29) vs. Kevin Correia (PIT) (8-6, 4.49 ERA, 52 K, 31 BB, WHIP 1.31)
8/9 – Joe Saunders (ARI) (5-8, 3.57 ERA, 79 K, 30 BB, WHIP 1.32) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) (7-10, 3.82 ERA, 98 K, 37 BB, WHIP 1.28)
Quotes From Both Sides:
[box_dark] “They out-executed us when it counted. They put pressure on us all day. It’s frustrating, but you just get over it and come back tomorrow.”
Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson on yesterday’s loss to the Philadelphia Phillies
[box_dark] “I’ve never had an ace before. I’ve never had a pitcher with the experience he has.”
Clint Hurdle on A.J. Burnett after he won his 14th game of the season yesterday
After a 6-4 road trip, the Pirates will look to continue their winning ways at home, where they are a staggering 33-16 at PNC Park. Be sure to check back here for the latest recaps and reactions to each and every Pirates game from us, the Fans From The Stands!
Let’s Go Bucs!