Series Preview #2: Pirates Open PNC Park vs. Braves

Series Quick Look
Friday, April 7: Pirates 5, Braves 4
Saturday, April 8, 7:05

Sunday, April 9, 1:35
at PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA


The Pittsburgh Pirates will play their home opener of 2017 this Friday vs. the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are a team Pirates fans are quite familiar with and still carry a grudge over. Thankfully a very talented hockey player for the Penguins has come along because before Crosby’s time nobody wanted to hear the name, Sid. Sid Bream‘s slide to home plate cursed the Pirates for years and still rest fresh in the memory of Pirates fans everywhere. With the two clubs on very opposite spectrums of goals, this matchup should still not be viewed as anything short of being earned.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Pirates lead 1,101-1,023
Last matchup…Aug. 2-4, 2016, Pirates lost 2-of-3 PNC Park, getting outscored 16-11.

About the Braves:

The Braves (1-2) went into full rebuild mode last season. They gained a plethora of young talented prospects headlined by Dansby Swanson. It was an acquisition talked in high regards for the Braves as many felt it was the most lopsided traded in MLB history. The Braves also acquired Ender Inciarte and Matt Kemp via trade last season who will be in their starting lineup this series. Other notable additions this season are Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia, Brandon Phillips and Kurt Suzuki.

The Braves will open a new ballpark this year and wanted to make sure they stayed competitive while ensuring nobody’s development would be hindered during their rebuild process. It’s easy to see that they have done a fantastic job putting together this team. With all of the young talent they have (ranked the No. 1 farm system by MLB) they managed to put together a very talented roster in the majors on short term contracts that should give plenty of teams fits this season. Don’t be fooled by the rebuild though, the Braves have a nice outfield, decent starting pitching, Freddie Freeman and a future star in Swanson.


PROBABLES & NOTES: 

4/8: RHP Ivan Nova (2016: 4.17 ERA/4.11 FIP, 96 ERA-) vs.
RHP Mike Foltynewicz (2016: 4.31 ERA/4.24 FIP, 106 ERA-)

Ivan Nova will be making his first start for the Black & Gold under his new three year, $26M contract he signed this offseason. His brief tenure with the Pirates has been quite exceptional as he posted a 3.06 ERA/2.62 FIP/66 FIP- during his 64.2 innings of work last year. Nova picked right back up where he left off this spring as he posted a 1.29 ERA while striking out 13 and walking only one batter in 14 innings. RHP Mike Foltynewicz will also be making his 2017 debut after his best season in the Majors in ’16. The Pirates faced Foltynewicz twice last season and ripped him for five runs each start. Gregory Polanco is the lone Pirate to hit a home run off Foltynewicz. The former 1st round pick in 2010 is ready for his fourth Major League season with his second team after starting his career with the Astros.

4/9: RHP Chad Kuhl (2016: 4.24 ERA/4.26 FIP, 106 ERA-) vs.
RHP R.A. Dickey (2016: 4.46 ERA/5.03 FIP, 104 ERA-)

Chad Kuhl made his Major League debut in 2016 with solid results, a 4.26 FIP in 14 starts. He looks to take a step forward in his second season as one of the Pirates back end starters. This will be the 24-year-old’s first start against the Braves. He’ll be opposite Braves newly-signed RHP R.A. Dickey, who signed in the offseason for a one-year, $8M deal with an option for 2018. The veteran will be in his 15th season in the Majors with his sixth different team when he starts with the Braves. The knuckleballer is 42 years young and still somewhat effective with a 104 ERA- last season. Dickey has had success against the Pirates in eight career appearances with a 2.55 ERA, but at PNC Park he’s only allowed three runs in 21 innings.

4/9: RHP Gerrit Cole (2017: 9.00 ERA/5.30 FIP, 83 ERA-) vs.
TBA

Cole is set to make his second start of the 2017 after what looked like a stellar Opening Day start in Boston before suddenly hitting trouble with two outs in the 5th inning. The great start unraveled quickly with five earned runs and seven hits and an ugly pitching line. Cole wasn’t as bad as his line indicates versus Boston and got beat by a good hitting team. In his career versus the Braves, Cole posted a 1.73 ERA in four starts (26.0IP/5ER). The Braves haven’t announced their starter yet for Sunday’s game, but looks like it will be Julio Teheran since he made the Braves Opening Day start as well.


TV/RADIO INFO: 
TV (Friday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, MLB Network & Fox Sports South (FSSO).
TV (Saturday): Fox Sports South
TV (Sunday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh & Fox Sports South (FSSO).
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7

ON THE SHELF: 

Pittsburgh:
Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.

Atlanta:
Mauricio Cabrera (P): 10-day DL (April 5)—Right elbow soreness.
Micah Johnson (P): 10-day DL (April 2)—Recovering from left wrist surgery.
Jacob Lindgren (P): 60-day DL (April 2)—Recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Armando Rivero (P): 10-day DL (April 2)—Right shoulder strain.
Sean Rodriguez (1B): 60-day DL (April 2)—Recovering from left shoulder surgery.
Daniel Winkler (P): 10-day DL (April 2)—Recovering from elbow surgery.

THE GREAT DANSBY
The Braves feature the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball, shortstop Dansby Swanson. Swanson got a taste of the Majors last season for 38 games in August/September. This year Swanson is the Braves everyday SS as Atlanta is going the youth route with their top prospect. Swanson hit .302/.361/.442/.803 with 107 wRC+ in his brief time in the Majors last year showing that he belongs at the age of 23.

KEMP POWER
The Braves dealt Hector Olivera to the Padres at the deadline last year for outfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp finished the year with 35 home runs, his second most home runs in a season and the most since 2011 with the Dodgers. Kemp starting this season strong as well, belting two home runs in three games versus the Mets to open the season. It wasn’t just all home runs either, Kemp had a crazy series with six hits (6-for-13), all for extra-base hits—four doubles, two home runs with a ridiculous .462/.500/1.231 slash line. Hopefully, the cold weather this weekend will help cool off Kemp’s hot start.

FORMER BUCCOS
We most likely won’t be seeing Sean Rodriguez is a Braves uniform this season after all. Sean and his family were involved in a car crash this offseason. Thankfully, everyone was okay from the accident, but Rodriguez needed surgery shoulder which essentially ended any hopes of playing this season. Rodriguez is currently on the Braves 60-day DL. Former Bucco Chase d’Arnaud is also on the Braves active roster. d’Arnaud was drafted by the Pirates in the 4th round of the ’08 draft and spent parts of ’11, ’12 and ’14 in Pittsburgh before being released. d’Arnaud made the Braves Opening Day roster rounding out their bench. He entered one game as a pinch runner in the first series against the Mets.

NEXT UP:
The first homestand of the season continues Monday with a three-game series with division rival Cincinnati Reds. After Wednesday’s afternoon game, the Pirates will head to Boston for the makeup Thursday game before traveling to Chicago and St. Louis.

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