Series Preview: The Astros

Current record: 14-17, 3rd place (tie) in NL Central, 6.0 games back

Up Next: Houston Astros, 14-17, 3rd place (tie) in NL Central, 6.0 games back

The battle for 3rd place begins tonight! What, not exciting enough? Then tune in to see 22-yr old Jose Altuve, who’s really fast and has been the surprise best player on Houston. Old pals Brian Bixler and Chris Snyder plus one time almost-a-Pirate Brandon Lyon are in town too. This is the first of three times Houston comes to town before they switch to the American League next season.

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Bud Norris (2-1, 37.1 IP, 33 K, 4.58 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
vs. RH James McDonald (2-1, 36.2 IP, 31 K, 2.70 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)

Norris has the tools but has yet to acheive consistancy, something that was always said about McDonald before this season.

Saturday: LH J.A. Happ (2-2, 34.1 IP, 34 K, 5.24 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
vs. RH Charlie Morton (1-3, 27.1 IP, 20 K, 4.61 ERA, 1.46 WHIP)

Morton is tinkering with his sinker, trying to get it to drop like it did last year when he was a ground ball machine. Despite how it’s written, Happ pronounces his name “Jay.”

Sunday: LH Wandy Rodriguez (3-3, 46.1 IP, 29 K, 2.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)
vs. RH A.J. Burnett (1-2, 23.2 IP, 27 K, 6.08 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)

A matchup of each team’s ace, which usually means lots of runs will be scored.

Pirates Lineup: McLouth in for Alex Presley again. Looks to me like Clint Hurdle is playing the “hot” hand, since Presley has been slumping and Hurdle says he’s seen Nate make strides in his approach lately. Expect to see Casey McGehee play vs lefties the next two games.

Jose Tabata RF
Nate McLouth LF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Neil Walker 2B
Garrett Jones 1B
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
James McDonald P

Don’t forget to enter the ticket giveaway contest before the end of the first inning tonight!

Series Preview: The Nationals

Current record: 12-16, 4th place in NL Central, 5.5 games back

Up Next: Washington Nationals, 18-10, 1st place in NL East, 1.0 game lead

The Nats are playing great baseball right now. They have five solid starting pitchers and are allowing the fewest runs per game in the majors (2.9). Old friends Adam LaRoche, Xavier Nady, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Burnett are on the team. LaRoche has avoided his usual April slump and been the best hitter on the Nats this year. RF Jayson Werth just went down with a broken wrist on Sunday. Phenom Bryce Harper will start in right while he’s out.

Probable Pitchers
Tuesday: RH Edwin Jackson (1-1, 32.2 IP, 29 K, 3.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP)
vs. RH A.J. Burnett (1-2, 15.2 IP, 17 K, 8.04 ERA, 1.72 WHIP)

Wednesday: LH Ross Detwiler (3-1, 28.1 IP, 21 K, 1.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (2-4, 34.0 IP, 37 K, 2.65 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)

Thursday: RH Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 38.0 IP, 38 K, 1.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP)
vs. RH Kevin Correia (1-2, 29.1 IP, 12 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)

No lineup available yet.

Update 2:35pm: The lineup is posted. Cutch is back, Alex Presley sits.

Jose Tabata LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Casey McGehee 1B
Garrett Jones RF
Clint Barmes SS
Rod Barajas C
A.J. Burnett P

Weekend Preview: The Reds

Current record: 11-14, 3rd place in NL Central, 5 games back

Up Next: Cincinnati Reds, 12-12, 2nd place in NL Central, 3.5 games back

The Reds pitching has been pretty bad so far and the offense has been all Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. If the Pirates can keep those two in check and keep hitting like they have the last few games then they should win the series. A sweep would have the Bucs in second place on Monday.

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Johnny Cueto (3-0, 32.1 IP, 22 K, 1.39 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
vs. RH Kevin Correia (1-1, 22.1 IP, 9 K, 2.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

Saturday: RH Mike Leake (0-3, 21.2 IP, 9 K, 6.65 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
vs. LH James McDonald (1-1, 30.1 IP, 24 K, 2.97 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)

Sunday: RH Mat Latos (1-2, 28.2 IP, 18 K, 5.97 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
vs. RH Charlie Morton (1-2, 21.1 IP, 15 K, 4.22 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)

No lineup available yet.

Update 4pmLineups just posted, thanks to Kristy Robinson of Pirates Prospects. Pedro moves up to the 5th spot. Looks like Andrew McCutchen is still feeling sick.

Jose Tabata RF
Alex Presley LF
Nate McLouth CF
Neil Walker 2B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Garrett Jones 1B
Clint Barmes SS
Rod Barajas C
Kevin Correia P

vs.

Zack Cozart SS
Drew Stubbs CF
Joey Votto 1B
Brandon Phillips 2B
Jay Bruce RF
Scott Rolen 3B
Chris Heisey LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Johnny Cueto P

Weekend Preview: The Braves

Sorry for not posting after Wednesday’s game 2. I needed to unplug for a bit but I’m back, refreshed and ready for a packed weekend.

For one inning, the bats finally came alive. Fortunately, that was enough. A five-spot in the fifth gave the Bucs all they would need to beat the Rockies, split the doubleheader and take the series. Props go to Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez for back-to-back homers. A big assist goes out to Rockies’ LF Carlos Gonzalez who twice lost balls in the sun before switching to a pair of flip-down shades.

Current record: 8-10, 4th place in NL Central, 3.5 games back

Up Next: Atlanta Braves, 12-7, 2nd place in NL East, 2 games back

I will be LIVE at all four games this series, since its my one chance to see the Pirates this season without travelling. If you’ll be there too then let me know and we can meet up. Last year all four games went long – two rain delays and two extra inning tilts – including the 19 inning Jerry Meals affair.

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Tommy Hanson (2-2, 24 IP, 23 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)
vs. RH A.J. Burnett (1-0, 7 IP, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP)

Saturday: RH Randall Delgado (2-1, 15.2 IP, 17 K, 5.74 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (0-4, 24 IP, 17 K, 2.63 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)

Sunday: RH Tim Hudson (2012 debut)
vs. RH Kevin Correia (1-0, 18 IP, 9 K, 2.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP)

Monday: LH Mike Minor (2-1, 26.1 IP, 21 K, 3.42 ERA, 0.99 WHIP)
vs. RH James McDonald (0-1, 22.2 IP, 14 K, 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)

No lineup available yet, but here’s my guess:

Alex Presley LF
Jose Tabata RF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Neil Walker 2B
Garrett Jones 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Clint Barmes SS
Rod Barajas C
A.J. Burnett P

There’s a decent chance that Nate McLouth starts two games this series. See you at the Park.

Update: The lineup is in and I was way off. I thought Clint Hurdle would go with the “normal” order due to yesterday’s off day. Actual Lineup:
Alex Presley LF
Clint Barmes SS
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones RF
Neil Walker 2B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Casey McGehee 1B
Rod Barajas C
A.J. Burnett P

No No-Hitter, No Win

James McDonald was, as they say, on. The Pirates’ offense was, as usual, off.

McDonald rolled through seven strong, taking a no-hitter into the 7th. His final line of 7 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 ER, 8 K would be good enough to win on almost any day. But not this day; not for a team that has scored only 36 times in 17 games.

It started early. Alex Presley extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single, but was caught stealing two batters later making Andrew McCutchen‘s double for naught. Every Pirates starter had exactly one hit, but baserunning mistakes kept them from putting them together for runs. Luckily Pedro Alvarez was able to put one over the fence and avoid the shutout.

Game two starting soon, as the Pirates try to win the series.

Lineup:
Alex Presley LF
Nate McLouth RF
Andrew McCutchen 8CF
Garrett Jones 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Yamaico Navarro 42B
Clint Barmes 6SS
Rod Barajas C
Charlie Morton P

Daytime Double Header.

The Pirates came back twice last night to beat Jamie Moyer and the Rockies 5-4. As a whole, the team was 11/33 with five walks and only three strikeouts. Today they’ll play two to make up for Monday’s postponement.

Game one lineups:

Pirates
Alex Presley LF
Jose Tabata RF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Neil Walker 2B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Clint Barmes SS
Michael McKenry C
James McDonald P (0-1, 3 GS, 15.2 IP, 6 K, 1.21 WHIP, 3.45 ERA)

Rockies
Marco Scutaro 2B
Tyler Colvin CF
Carlos Gonzalez LF
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Jason Giambi 1B
Michael Cuddyer  RF
Wilin Rosario C
Chris Nelson 3B
Juan Nicasio P (1-0, 3 GS, 16 IP, 12 K, 1.44 WHIP, 6.19 ERA)

Game 2:
Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 3 GS, 15 IP, 14 K, 1.40 WHIP, 4.80 ERA)
Charlie Morton  (0-1, 2 GS, 10 IP, 8 K, 1.40 WHIP, 3.60 ERA)

A new rule this year allows teams to call up an extra player for doubleheaders. Jared Hughes has been recalled from AAA to fill this role. He’ll be returned to the minors tomorrow.

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