Photo: Robert Engberg
Pittsburgh Pirates (33-40) @ St Louis Cardinals (33-38)
Time: Friday – 8:15
The Pirates won the first two games in the four game series against Milwaukee, outscoring them 15-4. It appeared as though the Pirates were about to pick up some ground in the division. But then the inevitable happened, they let us all down. The Pirates have failed to pick up any games against the first place Brewers and second place Cubs. It would be great if they could pick up a game against the third place Cardinals.
Game one of the series will be the best time for the Pirates to do that, as Wainwright has struggled quite a bit since the start of 2016. The only pitcher with an ERA worse than Wainwrights since the beginning of 2016 is former Pirate Edinson Volquez (minimum 250 IP). He’s throwing first pitch strikes less and getting fewer swinging strikes. At 35, it’s hard to imagine he will bounce back.
Taillon wasn’t so good last time out, but it was just his second start back from having surgery. The Cardinals have less punch in their offense than the Cubs do, so hopefully Taillon can get back on track.
The Cardinals are slight favorites to win this one, but will have to do so with Yadier Molina as he was a late scratch with knee soreness.
Time: Saturday– 7:15
Lance Lynn underwent Tommy John surgery which forced him to miss most of the 2016 season. In his first full year back, he’s posted an ERA in the low 3’s. However, his FIP and xFIP are a run and a half higher suggesting that Lynn is due for some regression. Josh Harrison has been very good against Lynn throughout his career, batting .348 over 23 AB.
Gerrit Cole’s last 2 starts have been much like his first 9. Pitching 7 innings and giving up just 1 run in each game is exactly what this team needed, and still needs, so hopefully he can give the Pirates another quality start. My last post featured Gerrit Cole. He’s struggling when he fails to get a first pitch strike.
Chad Kuhl (2-6, 5.46 ERA) vs Mike Leake (5-6, 3.03 ERA)
Time: Sunday – 8:00 (ESPN)
Mike Leake’s ERA has gone from 4.69 to 3.03 in his second year with the Cardinals. However, nothing else has changed. His FIP and xFIP have remained around 3.70, his pitch usage has remained the same, and his home run rate has remained the same. Leake is a fine pitcher, but he’s not a 3.03 ERA pitcher. David Freese has crushed Mike Leake throughout his career, going 16-31 against him. Hopefully, for this one game, he turns into a 9 ERA pitcher because….
… Chad Kuhl is pitching the series finale. Unless the Cardinals make a roster move by Sunday, they will only be able to have 3 lefties in the lineup facing him. Kuhl’s struggles against lefties have been well documented, but his main issue is lack of command. Sure, lefties beat him up. And hopefully Kuhl can do well against a right handed heavy lineup. But he won’t be able to take the next step without improved command or throwing his slider more often.
Pirates: Andrew McCutchen – Last 30 days .396/.486/.736, 8 HR, 14.7 K%, 16.5 BB%
Cardinals: Dexter Fowler – Last 30 days .300/.386/.570, 7 HR, 18.4 K%, 12.3 BB%
Pirates: David Freese – Last 7 days .182/.308/.182, 26.9 K%, 11.5 BB%
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright – Last 3 starts 10.1 IP, 20 ER, 12.1 K%, 10.3 BB%