Are our expectations too high for this year’s Pirates team? Well based upon the more than 113,000 people who packed PNC Park this weekend, the second highest attendance for a three-game series in the ballpark’s history, the fans are love what they’re seeing from their baseball team. That is, until this home stand, where the Bucs are just 3-4 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres.
After blowing a six-run lead in their loss on Friday and nearly getting no-hit by Jason Marquis on Saturday, the Pirates needed an offensive explosion to avoid the sweep by the Padres in front of a crowd that was beginning to turn on their team yesterday afternoon before a nine-run fourth inning turned the fans’ jeers to cheers.
The Pirates have been incredibly impressive at PNC this season, but so far in this, their longest home stand of the season, things have not gone their way. For many fans, the way they’ve lost games this past week is reminiscent of a year ago, when the team, after a great start to the season and leading their division into July, completely fell apart and ended up with a 72-90 record.
But as we’ve seen all season, this team has responded well in moments of struggle, and, given the fact that they’ve already won 64 games and there’s still another month and a half left in the season, this year is going to be different.
For as much as Andrew McCutchen has cooled off this week, Neil Walker is that much hotter at the plate. After a 5-5 performance yesterday afternoon, Real Deal Neil looks like he’s as comfortable at the plate as ever. After the self-proclaimed biggest homerun of his career, a grand slam in the fourth inning yesterday, Clint Barmes will hopefully be able to carry over that momentum to put more quality games together at the plate, while Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte also need to battle their way out of hitting slumps.
But it truly is all about the starting pitching in terms of how successful a team is at the end of the season and into the postseason. James McDonald, A.J. Burnett, and Erik Bedard all struggled this weekend, forcing Clint Hurdle to decide on a six-man rotation, inserting Kevin Correia into the rotation for the time-being. The Pirates’ pitching will surely be tested this week in a huge series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park.
Dodgers (62-53) vs. Pirates (64-50)
About the Dodgers…
62-53 Record, 2nd In N.L. West
Last Series: 2-1 Series Victory @ Miami Marlins
It’s been a tale of two halves for the Dodgers’ season thus far. They came out of the gate on fire in April, which included a three-game sweep of our Buccos in the second week of the year. In fact, on June 1, the Dodgers were 32-19, occupying the best record in all of baseball, and were seemingly running away with the N.L. West division. Since that time, however, they are just 30-34, a game behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants and 2.5 games behind the Pirates for the final Wild Card spot. As good as April was for the Dodgers, June was that bad, as they managed just an 11-17 record, including a stretch in which they lost 11 of 12 games to round out the month.
Much of their struggles in June and July came as a result of injuries to their two best offensive weapons, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Kemp was on a record-setting pace with his early start before his injury, but hasn’t regained that form since returning to the lineup. He does lead the team in homeruns (17) and runs scored (50), while Ethier, who has also battled the injury bug, leads the club in batting average (.285) and RBIs (65).
Chris Capuano, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins over the weekend, leads the team in wins with eleven, while Clayton Kershaw continues to be a dominant force in that rotation. The Dodgers were busy at the trade deadline as well, picking up Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins and Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies.
The bottom line is…this team is loaded with talent, from the offense to the starting pitching to the bullpen. If the Pirates are going to have a successful four game series against the Dodgers, they are going to have to play solid baseball in all facets of the game.
8/13 – Aaron Harang (LAD) (7-7, 3.80 ERA, 100 K, 59 BB, WHIP 1.40) vs. Jeff Karstens (PIT) (4-2, 3.77 ERA, 46 K, 13 BB, WHIP 1.21)
8/14 – Chad Billingsley (LAD) (8-9, 3.84 ERA, 118 K, 39 BB, WHIP 1.32) vs. Kevin Correia (PIT) (9-6, 4.49 ERA, 57 K, 34 BB, WHIP 1.32)
8/15 – Clayton Kershaw (LAD) (10-6, 2.88 ERA, 157 K, 42 BB, WHIP 1.03) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) (7-11, 3.91 ERA, 100 K, 39 BB, WHIP 1.29)
8/16 – Joe Blanton (LAD) (8-10, 4.61 ERA, 123 K, 21 BB, WHIP 1.20) vs. James McDonald (PIT) (10-5, 3.77 ERA, 126 K, 52 BB, WHIP 1.21)
Quotes From Both Sides:
[box_dark] “I started thinking about it a little bit probably after the fifth, sixth. I had a nice heckler today when I was in the on-deck circle that kept reminding me. I actually turned to him and said, ‘Yeah, I know.’” [/box_dark]
Dodgers’ pitcher Chris Capuano on taking a no-hitter into the 7th yesterday against the Marlins
[box_dark] “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He’s helped me a lot and he has helped this team a lot by playing great defense. It was good to see him come up with the big hit.” [/box_dark]
Neil Walker on Clint Barmes’ grand slam in yesterday’s 11-5 victory
The Pirates are trailing the Cincinnati Reds by 4.5 games in the N.L. Central, while leading the Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals by 2.5 games in the Wild Card race. This huge week of play for the Bucs begins tonight, in the first of four against the Dodgers.
Check back here for the latest recaps and reactions for each and every Pirates game from us, the Fans From The Stands!
Let’s Go Bucs!