The Start to a New Beginning

Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates will finish their series against the Oakland Athletics at 4:05 PM. It will be the last time they have to play at the deteriorating Oakland Coliseum this year, but it will mark the start of a beginning.

With today’s game being the 82nd of the year, it is officially the first game of the second half of baseball. Sure, the baseball people like to market the All-Star game being the midway point, but it actually is a bit into the second half. With that said, it is a time where they Pirates can put past their losing woes and focus only on a playoff berth. It has been well documented how terrible this club has been over June, but they currently have won six of their last eight.

What has been the most impressive part over this stretch of games is the bullpen’s success. In the last seven games, Pittsburgh’s goldfish bowl has found itself turn back into the Shark Tank! Is it any coincidence that on June 26th, the Discovery Channel began its yearly run of Shark Week? Maybe, but either way it could not come at a better time. In their last seven games, the Pirates bullpen has pitched 23 straight scoreless innings. During that stretch, it allowed just 11 hits, four walks, and struck out 11. The pitching as a whole holds a 2.80 ERA during that time. Clearly it is just a small sample, but the emergence of Juan Nicasio in the bullpen and the turnaround by Arquimedes Caminero have surely helped bandage this group.

In tonight’s contest, we will see Francisco Liriano face Daniel Mengden. Liriano has had some scoffs with pitching coach, Ray Searage, as reported by John Perrotto, so it’s unclear on if and how his turnaround will measure for the rest of the season. Currently, he owns a 5.33 ERA and is walking an incredible 5.9 batters per 9 innings. The lefty hasn’t show any signs on improvement as he is coming fresh off a 4.1 inning outing where he allowed 5 runs (4 earned) and walked five while striking out four.

Mengden enters this game with a 1-3 record and a 2.81 ERA in just over 25 innings. The rookie comes in as Oakland’s #13 prospect who had a 1.19 ERA in his 68.1 innings of minor league ball this year. Drafted out of the 4th round in 2014 by the Astros, Mengden has quickly climbed through the ranks and was later traded to Oakland for Scott Kazmir. Not until these year, though, has he shown any major promise. He only pitched 11 innings of rookie ball in 2014, and for his first full year of professional ball last season, he tallied 130 innings with an ERA of 3.72. He has a solid four pitch mix where he features a fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. His fastball sits around 91, but he does top out at around 96 MPH. His off speed pitches are around average, so you would think this is a perfect pitcher to get this Pirates offense going once again.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the lineup has not been producing much at all over the last week even with the Pirates winning. Thankfully the bullpen has turned a corner because the Pirates have slashed .230/.306/.333 over the past week. Really, the only person who has played well offensively is Starling Marte. His hit .333 with six hits (one for a triple) and three stolen bases. He has also drawn three walks. This is astounding because for the season he only has 11 in total. Except for the walks, this week has been typical for Marte as he owns a .327 batting average to go along with 23 stolen bases. Both marks rank him 4th and 2nd in the National League.

Today, we will see Andrew McCutchen get another needed day off. His season has been talked a lot about, but unlike the ordinary it hasn’t been due to his MVP type of play. While it was mentioned he’s been battling a thumb injury, Cutch has hit just .239 on the season while sporting a career low .724 OPS. This will bring Starling Marte to play center field, while Matt Joyce handles right field and rookie Adam Frazier will man left.

Pirates Lineup:

  1. John Jaso 1B
  2. Gregory Polanco DH
  3. Jung Ho Kang 3B
  4. Starling Marte CF
  5. Matt Joyce RF
  6. Josh Harrison 2B
  7. Adam Frazier LF
  8. Jordy Mercer SS
  9. Erik Kratz C

 

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