Following their three game series sweep of the Miami Marlins, the Pirates and their fans looked ahead to the next ten games as a huge opportunity to put together an impressive stretch of victories. After a three gamer against the Chicago Cubs, though, in which they barely avoided being swept in front of their home crowd, the Pirates find themselves 2.5 games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds.
Still, the Bucs have a four game series against the woeful Houston Astros, the last place team in their division, beginning tonight at Minute Maid Park. Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game with a 55-42 record, while Houston has an abysmal 34-65 mark, has lost nine straight games and is 2-19 this month. Their most notable hitter entering this season, Carlos Lee, has been shipped down south to the Miami, while their top pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, will join the Pirates today. We knew that things would be tough for this team as they are wrapping up their final season before migrating to the American League, but things have taken a nasty turn here in the past month. The wheels have officially fallen off in Houston.
This should be a grand opportunity for the Pirates to get back to the ways in which they won so many games this season in the past couple months. While the starting pitching has been doing its job all season for the most part, the offense has hit a bit of a lull the past few days, tallying just four total runs in three games against the Cubs this week. If they’re going to serious contend down the stretch, the offense will need to play similarly to June and early July.
While Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are leading the Pirates offense, the team will hopefully get a jolt from Starling Marte, who has been called up to the big club and will join them today in Houston. It is expected, at least initially, that Marte will bat leadoff and play left field.
With the acquisition of Rodriguez, though, comes the Pirates dilemma with the starting pitching rotation. Who will be the odd man out? A.J. Burnett and James McDonald are clearly remaining in the rotation, and given the way Erik Bedard has pitched recently, he’ll certainly remain in there as well. That leaves Jeff Karstens and Kevin Correia, and despite his 6-0 record in his last seven games, the pitching numbers haven’t been all that impressive for Correia. Expect him to be the odd man out, unless Clint Hurdle & Co. decide to go with a six-man rotation…which is doubtful.
7/26 – A.J. Burnett (PIT) (11-3, 3.59 ERA, 89 K, 34 BB, WHIP 1.29) vs. Dallas Keuchel (HOU) (1-2, 4.03 ERA, 11 K, 17 BB, WHIP 1.55)
As of this moment, tonight’s game is the only confirmed matchup as both teams’ rotations will be altered between now and the rest of the series this weekend. The Pirates, of course, will need to tweak their rotation following the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday. Rumors are that either Jeff Karstens or Kevin Correia will be moved to the bullpen. Despite going 6-0 in his last seven starts, Correia appears to be the odd man out, and will most likely end up in the bullpen. For Houston, Jordan Lyles is scheduled to start on Friday and Lucas Harrell on Sunday.
Quotes From Both Sides:
[box_dark] “We acquired a very good pitcher who is going to help us. Somebody is going to have to come out of the rotation. I thought about it a lot last night, but it wasn’t on my mind when I took the mound. I just tried to do the best I could to help the team win and the decisions about the rotation are out of my hands.” [/box_dark]
Kevin Correia on pitching yesterday amidst the pitching rotation rumors
[box_dark] “We can say we’re snake-bitten or whatever, but we’ve still got to play the game.” [/box_dark]
Astros’ manager Brad Mills after Wednesday’s loss to Cincinnati
The Pirates kick off a ten-game road trip against three N.L. Central teams tonight in Houston against a dreadful Astros team. Currently leading the Wild Card race and trailing the Reds by 2.5 games, each and every game is an important one for the Pirates and their fans.
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Let’s Go Bucs!