Game 37: Braves in Town

Never have the Atlanta Braves looked so good. The 9-27 Braves come to town for a four-game series to kick off a 10-game homestand.

The Pirates need to start stacking some wins after another series loss to the Cubs and four games against the Braves is just what the doctor ordered. It’s pretty ugly right now for the rebuilding Braves, who hold the NL’s worst record and it’s not even close. How bad has their offense been? We’re 36 games in and the Braves are last in home runs with NINE. David Ortiz and Nolan Arenado have more home runs each on the season and Trevor Story almost hit that many in his first week in the majors.

The Braves are not just last in home runs, but they’re also last in runs per game with 3.03. They’re last in doubles, triples, hits, batting average, slugging, OPS and second to last in OBP. If there was ever a series for the Bucs pitching to turn it around, it’s this one.

Jon Niese will get his first attempt at just that tonight when he takes the mound in what has been a tough season already. Niese comes into tonight with a 5.63 ERA and even worse 6.22 FIP. He needs a nice start to get back on track and let’s hope the Braves punchless lineup provides that.

Atlanta will counter with Williams Perez, who’s off to a decent start to the season with a 3.54 ERA in four starts in 2016, including a brilliant 8.0 innings, one run allowed last time out against the Phillies. Perez struggled last season in his rookie year against the Bucs, allowing six runs in 9.2 innings of work which included seven walks.

There was a minor move before the game today where Starling Marte was placed on paternity leave as he prepares for the birth of his child. While Marte is out, the Pirates have called up Alen Hanson as we’ll most likely get a chance to see Hanson’s MLB debut this series. Hanson was hitting .288/.309/.398 in 27 games at Triple-A Indy.

With Marte on leave, expect to see a lot of Matt Joyce in RF as Polanco shifts to left field tonight. Joyce has been red-hot this season (.333/.480/.692) off the bench and probably should have started yesterday against the Cubs too over Sean Rodriguez. I’m interested to see what Joyce does with a chance to start a few games in a row.

Pirates lineup:
Jaso 1B
McCutchen CF
Polanco LF
Freese 3B
Cervelli C
Joyce RF
Harrison 2B
Mercer SS
Niese SP

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