The feeling in and around the Steel City is that the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen on hard times. While they are only a game and a half behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the N.L. Central and are just a half game back in the Wild Card race, it seems as though the hope of the fans around the city has taken a serious dive following Sunday’s extra inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Of course, this is all focused around Andrew McCutchen, the reigning N.L. MVP and was well on his way to another award before getting injured in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game. Suddenly, the Pirates, who are the best team in the league since June 1, record-wise, are suddenly looked upon as a team on the way down. Now, more than ever, the Bucs will need players like Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and Ike Davis, among others, to step up in Cutch’s absence. As of just a few moments ago, Marte has been reactivated and Alvarez has been placed on the bereavement list.
But while much of the attention will be on the offense, what will ultimately dictate where this season goes from this point on, as always, will be the starting pitching. This rotation has had its ups and downs in 2014, but now, with their top offensive producer on the shelf for what could be over a month, the pitching staff, from the starters to the back of the bullpen, needs to be at their best. Charlie Morton gets the opportunity to set the tone tonight in the first game of their series against the Miami Marlins. But Jeff Locke, Edinson Volquez, Vance Worley, and Gerrit Cole (when he returns) need to keep runs at a premium for the opposition. If the Pirates are going to continue to contend with McCutchen out of the lineup, it is going to need to be a complete team effort.
The Marlins also have a pulse in the playoff picture. They sit 6.5 games back in the N.L. East and are 5.5 games out in the Wild Card race. Giancarlo Stanton has been their offensive juggernaut this year, hitting at a .290 clip with 26 HR and 74 RBI. Casey McGehee has had a huge year so far, hitting .302 with 59 RBI.
Still, this is a series that the Pirates need to win. This eight game home stand includes three against Miami before three against the San Diego Padres and two vs. the Detroit Tigers. These next two series are crucial for the Bucs to win, as the schedule becomes extremely difficult over the next few weeks.
Miami Marlins (54-57, 3rd In N.L. East) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (59-52, 3rd In N.L. Central)
8/5 – Brad Hand (MIA) (2-3, 4.15 ERA, WHIP 1.45) vs. Charlie Morton (PIT) (5-10, 3.54 ERA, WHIP 1.22)
8/6 – Tom Koehler (MIA) (7-8, 3.70 ERA, WHIP 1.22) vs. Jeff Locke (PIT) (2-3, 3.77 ERA, WHIP 1.19)
8/7 – Jarred Cosart (MIA) (0-1, 6.75 ERA, WHIP 1.13) vs. Edinson Volquez (PIT) (8-7, 3.91 ERA, WHIP 1.34)
The Pirates will look to get back on the winning track tonight at PNC Park, a place where they have enjoyed loads of success in 2014. With 17 of their remaining 25 games in August being played at home, they need to take care of business against these inferior teams before they match up against the better teams in the league.
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Let’s Go Bucs!