Game 99: Pirates vs. King Felix

There’s nothing rarer in interleague play than the Seattle Mariners at PNC Park, which is where they will be tonight and tomorrow as the Bucs play host to the Mariners in games 99 and 100.

The Pirates (51-47) get to face Felix Hernandez tonight, who is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Bucs, but King Felix is actually having a very un-Felix like season. He has a 3.23 ERA, but a career worst 4.24 FIP. His walks are up while his strikeouts are down, which is always a red flag for a pitcher especially an ace like Felix. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bucs can be patient at the plate tonight and get some runs off of him. The last time they faced the Bucs at PNC Park in 2013, Felix mowed them down for 8.0 innings on six hits and one run.

The Mariners are 50-48 coming into tonight and sit four games back of the AL wildcard spot with a week to go before the deadline. They are basically in the same boat as the Pirates in needing to decide if they’ll buy or sell this season and are far back (7 games) in their division. The difference is the Pirates have the best record in baseball since June 24 with a 17-8 mark and are only 1.5 out of the wildcard. This is a big two-game series for both teams because of the proximity to the trade deadline.

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The Bucs will hope for another positive outing for Francisco Liriano tonight as he takes the mound for his 20th start this season. A lot has been written about the 2016 Liriano we’ve seen this season, but the good news is that he’s turned it around a bit in July with a 3.57 ERA through four starts in his best month of the season. That included his stellar performance last time out against the Brewers on Thursday where he struck out 13 batters in 6.2 innings in a 5-3 Pirates win. The Bucs need more of that as Liriano getting on track is crucial to this team making a legitimate push for the postseason.

As for the lineup, everybody rejoice that Adam Frazier is in the lineup over Josh Harrison! I didn’t need to watch JHay flail at pitches out of the zone against Felix all night. Frazier getting more ABs and starts is a good thing so we can see what the kid can do. Also, David Freese sits, which is a good move considering he’s 0-for-21 with 11 K’s in his career against Hernandez. Starling Marte is 3-for-8 with two doubles against Felix and he’s batting fourth tonight.

Here is tonight’s North Shore Nine
Jaso 1B
Polanco RF
McCutchen CF
Marte LF
Kang 3B
Cervelli C
Frazier 2B
Mercer SS
Liriano P

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