For the second time since the All Star break, the Pittsburgh Pirates (52-48) will be facing the Milwaukee Brewers (44-56). They took the last series winning two of the three games played and will look to make ground in the N.L. Wildcard race by taking this series on the road. The game is set to be played at 8:10 PM at Miller Park.
Taking the mound tonight for the Pirates will be rookie pitcher, Steven Brault. Brault made his one and only start this year in his MLB debut on July 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In that game, he lasted just 4 innings, but allowed just four hits, two walks and struck out a total of five batters. He pithed pretty effectively, which didn’t come by shock to some fans. Brault, who was brought into the Pirates system by way of the Travis Snider deal, has pitched 54 innings this season in the minors touting a very effective 1.99 ERA. Last year’s 170 innings of 2.64 ERA baseball would support that this trend isn’t so much of a fluke. Nobody is expecting Brault to turn into an ace when he gets the final callup to the majors, but he can certainly be a dependable guy in any team’s rotation.
As for the Brewers, they will send Junior Guerra to the mound in hopes of souring the Pirates trade deadline hype. Guerra owns a 2.85 ERA this season in 94 innings pitched and has easily been the Brewers best pitcher on their staff. His 4.14 xFIP suggests there is likely some regression coming, however he barely allows a runner on per innings and doesn’t give up many home runs. Nothing much was expected out of this 30 year old rookie pitcher, but he sure is making people notice him at this time. When he last faced the Pirates on July 19th, he allowed just 2 earned runs on three hits and three walks. Thanks to a remarkable performance by Jameson Taillon, Guerra ‘earned’ the loss.
With all the rumors swirling today over Mark Melancon on the trade block, he is still with the club and carries his stellar 1.51 ERA and 30 saves into Milwaukee. He has anchored a bullpen that has rebounded nicely since the beginning of the year to a 2.01 ERA ranked as 2nd best of all MLB the last 30 days behind only the Yankees. With Melancon, this team has a legitimate bullpen heading into the stretch. Tony Watson, who has been preparing to take over the closer role for some time, enters with a 2.66 ERA in 44 innings pitched. Free Agent acquisition, Neftali Feliz, has been stellar this year earning a 2.97 ERA in 39 innings pitched while allowed under a baserunner per inning.
With the bounce back of Arquimedes Caminero, Juan Nicasio ‘promoted’ to the bullpen, and the solid innings A.J. Schugel has provided, you can see the potential this bald headed shark tank has. The real wild card here is if Jared Hughes can bounce back soon. If, and I stress, IF Mark Melancon does get traded in an amazing trade, the Pirates would be smart to still get another quality middle relief pitcher, but their options for the 8th and 9th innings appear to be solid ones still.
With a rookie on the mound, the Pirates have decided to go full force with the battery as every single starter will man their position. Since his return, Francisco Cervelli is batting .300 with just one extra base hit. In the past 14 days, Gregory Polanco holds a .333/.400/.481 slash while the always ballin’ out Starling Marte owns a .343/.465/.600 clip accumulating six extra base hits and five stolen bases.
As many rumors that have been swirling around Melancon recently, Jonathan Lucroy has been dealing with the rumors almost daily for close to two years now. With just three days left until the deadline, it appears as if Lucroy’s tenure with the Brewers is closing at this time. With teams such as the Mets, Braves, Tigers, Rangers, and Indians linked to him, we very well may need to keep ‘hug watch’ on high alert this weekend.
Lucroy getting traded as soon as possible would help the Buccos as the Brewers would lose one of their most prolific bats on this team. With Ryan Braun already day to day with tightness, though he has been considered a possible trade candidate, the punch the Brewers bring would be severely limited. As a matter of fact, ex-Bucco Keon Broxton will actually be getting the start in center tonight.