Series Preview: The Twins

Current record: 34-31, 2nd place in NL Central, 3.5 games back

Up Next: Minnesota Twins, 26-39, 5th place in AL Central, 8.0 games back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: Minnesota is having a really rough year. The pitching is giving up 5.4 runs per game, highest in the majors outside of Colorado. They can still put some runs up on the board, however. Trevor Plouffe is astonishingly the hottest hitter in the majors this month and is up to 14 homers on the year. Joe Mauer still hits like Joe Mauer when he’s in the lineup and not making shampoo commericals. Justin Morneau looked like he had recovered from his concussion in May but has slumped in June. Simply put, these are game the Bucs should win.

Familiar Faces: Ryan Doumit, Matt Capps

Probable Pitchers
Tuesday: LH Scott Diamond (5-2, 50.2 IP, 29 K, 2.13 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
vs. RH Kevin Correia (2-6, 69.0 IP, 25 K, 4.43 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

Diamond’s been the only bright spot on a horrible Twins staff this year. Correia hasn’t won at PNC since last June 22.

Wednesday: LH Francisco Liriano (1-7, 57.2 IP, 59 K, 6.24 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (4-7, 66.0 IP, 62 K, 4.36 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)

In four starts since moving back into the roatation, Liriano’s been okay: almost 6 IP per start and has lowered his ERA by over two runs. He still walks too many on most days, but if he’s on he could carve up this Pirates team. Bedard looks to bounce back from a rough outing.

Thursday: RH Liam Hendriks (0-3, 23.0 IP, 14 K, 7.83 ERA, 1.87 WHIP)
vs. RH James McDonald (5-3, 81.1 IP, 78 K, 2.32 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)

The young Aussie will get plenty of chances to see if he can stick around with Minnesota out of the race already. JMac continues to build his resume for an All-Star bid.

No lineups yet.

Series Preview: The Orioles

Current record: 32-27, 1st place tie in NL Central, 0.0 games ahead

Up Next: Baltimore Orioles, 34-26, 3rd place in AL East, 1.0 game back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: The Orioles have been the surprise team of the AL this season, having spent 53 days in first place of the tough AL East. Like the Pirates, the O’s are finding their success despite having been outscored on the season 263-267. Also like the Pirates, they have a young All-Star center fielder leading the way. Adam Jones is hitting .298/.344/.571 with 17 home runs, 37 RBI and 9 steals. Anchoring the team behind the plate is a name all too familiar to Pirate fans: Matt Wieters. The Georgia Tech product has become one of the best catchers in the majors; just as it was thought he would back in 2007. Former Pirates GM Dave Littlefield passed on taking Wieters with the 4th pick, which is a big reason he is now the former GM.

Familiar Faces: Ronny Paulino, Steve Pearce, Dana Eveland

Probable Pitchers
Tuesday: RH Brad Lincoln (3-1, 30.0 IP, 31 K, 2.40 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
vs. LH Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 67.0 IP, 51 K, 3.49 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)

The Bucs face Chens in back to back starts for what has to be the first time in their history. Wei-Yin (no relation to Bruce) has been a major addition for the O’s this season. Jeff Karstens strained his hip flexor in his last rehab start, so Lincoln will get at least one more turn.

Wednesday: RH Kevin Correia (2-5, 63.0 IP, 24 K, 4.29 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
vs. LH Brian Matusz (5-6, 65.1 IP, 50 K, 4.82 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)

Thursday: LH Erik Bedard (4-6, 62.2 IP, 61 K, 3.59 ERA, 1.37 WHIP)
vs. RH Tommy Hunter (2-3, 65.0 IP, 33 K, 5.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP)

No lineups yet.

Series Preview: The Brewers

Current record: 25-25, 3rd place in NL Central, 3.0 games back

Up Next: Milwaukee Brewers, 23-28, 5th place in NL Central, 5.5 games back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: If the Pirates have had a nemesis the last few years it’s been the Brewers, especially in Miller Park. Milwaukee is a shell of last year’s division winner. Prince Fielder left for the Tigers and his replacement Mat Gamel is out for the year. Starting SS Alex Gonzalez has also been lost for the season and C Jonathan Lucroy just broke his hand and is out for a few weeks. Ryan Braun is stil on the team and slugging as well as ever.

Familiar Faces: Nyjer Morgan, Jose Veras

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Kevin Correia (1-5, 52.1 IP, 18 K, 4.30 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
vs. RH Randy Wolf (2-4, 55.0 IP, 30 K, 5.73 ERA, 1.67 WHIP)

Saturday: LH Erik Bedard (3-5, 52.0 IP, 51 K, 3.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
vs. RH Shaun Marcum (3-3, 62.0 IP, 58 K, 3.63 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)

Sunday: RH James McDonald (4-2, 65.1 IP, 63 K, 2.20 ERA, 0.96 WHIP)
vs. RH Michael Fiers (1-0, 7.0 IP, 3 K, 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP)

No lineups yet.

Series Preview: The Cubs

Current record: 20-24, 4th place in NL Central, 5.0 games back

Up Next: Chicago Cubs, 15-29, 6th place in NL Central, 10.0 games back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: First baseman Bryan LaHair is making the most of his first chance at regular playing time. He leads the team with 10 HR and a 1.020 OPS. Speedster Tony Campana and his twelve stolen bases have taken over CF since Marlon Byrd was traded to Boston. Carlos Marmol was almost removed from the closer role before going on the DL with a hamstring strain. The Cubs top three catchers (Geovany Soto, Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo) are all hurt right now.

Familiar Faces: Paul Maholm

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Ryan Dempster (0-2, 47.1 IP, 44 K, 2.28 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)
vs. RH A.J. Burnett (2-2, 37.2 IP, 33 K, 4.78 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)

Dempster has pitched much better than his 0-2 record. He’s in line to be the Cubs’ All-Star and then traded at the deadline. The trade for A.J. Burnett keeps looking better and better.

Saturday: LH Paul Maholm (4-3, 45.2 IP, 27 K, 4.73 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
vs. RH Kevin Correia (1-5, 46.0 IP, 16 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

In his first season for the Cubs, Maholm is pitching as well as he usually did for the Pirates. Correia’s WHIP is pretty good, but that’s the only stat of his that looks nice.

Sunday: RH Matt Garza (2-2, 48.1 IP, 43 K, 3.72 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (2-5, 46.0 IP, 48 K, 3.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)

Garza has also been the subject of trade rumors but he’s likely to be kept around unless someone gives the Cubs a real sweetheart deal. Bedard tries to right himself after two shaky starts since his back spasms.

No lineups yet.

Grilli on Bereavement List, Locke Recalled

Relief pitcher Jason Grilli has been placed on the Bereavement List due to the death of his wife’s grandfather. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the extended Grilli family at this time.

To take his place on the roster, pitcher Jeff Locke has been called up from AAA. Locke was part of the 2009 Nate McLouth trade along with Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez. All four pieces of that deal are currently on the Bucs’ big league roster.

Locke was called up for four starts at the end of last season and went 0-3 in 16.2 innings with 5 strikeouts, a 6.48 ERA and 1.86 WHIP. His AAA line for this season is 3-3, 47.2 IP, 36 K, 3.02 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. For now, Jeff is expected to pitch out of the bullpen in long relief.

Today’s game starts at 1:05. Lineup:

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

Kevin Correia SP

Tigers:
Don Kelly CF
Andy Dirks LF
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Delmon Young DH
Brennan Boesch RF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Alex Avila C
Ryan Raburn 2B

Max Scherzer SP

Series Preview: The Tigers

Current record: 18-20, 3rd place in NL Central, 4.0 games back

Up Next: Detroit Tigers, 18-20, 2nd place in AL Central, 4.0 games back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: The Pirates head to Detroit for the start of Interleague play. Miguel CabreraPrince Fielder and Austin Jackson lead an offense that has scored 167 runs in 38 games, 4.39 per game. Fortunately, the pitching and defense has yielded 4.66 r/g. Curious to see who’ll be DHing for the Pirates this weekend.

Familiar Faces: Jim Leyland, Octavio Dotel and Don Kelly.

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Charlie Morton (2-3, 33.1 IP, 20 K, 4.05 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
vs. Rh Justin Verlander (4-1, 58.1 IP, 56 K, 2.47 ERA, 0.87 WHIP)

Morton’s mechanical adjustments were very effective in his last start. Just when you thought the Pirates had already faced every good pitcher in the league, they face last year’s AL Cy Young award winner and MVP.

Saturday: RH A.J. Burnett (1-2, 31.2 IP, 31 K, 5.12 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
vs. LH Drew Smyly (1-0, 39.0 IP, 32 K, 2.31 ERA, 1.10 WHIP)

Burnett’s been amazing, save the one awful start. Smyly is the Tigers’ hot young rookie.

Sunday: RH Kevin Correia (1-4, 40.0 IP, 14 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
vs. RH Max Scherzer (2-3, 41.2 IP, 48 K, 6.26 ERA, 1.73 WHIP)

Really hoping that Brad Lincoln gets this start instead of Correia. If not, then you have to imagine that Kevin will be on a very short leash. Even with nothing else going his way Scherzer still strikes out a bunch of guys. He’s the kind of pitcher that always
seems to right himself against the Bucs.

No lineups yet.

4:58 Update: Lineups:
Josh Harrison DH
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Garrett Jones RF
Casey McGehee 1B
Nate McLouth LF
Clint Barmes SS
Michael McKenry C

Tigers
Don Kelly CF
Andy Dirks LF
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Delmon Young DH
Alex Avila C
Brennan Boesch RF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Ryan Raburn 2B

Presley Optioned, Meek Recalled

In a surprising move, OF Alex Presley was just optioned down to AAA. RHP Evan Meek has been recalled from AAA to take his place on the roster. Presley has been struggling at the plate and has spent much of the past week on the bench. The Pirates likely feel that some time in the minors may help him regain the form that got him to the majors last year.

The main impetus of the move however, is likely the need for another pitcher. The pitching staff has been taxed lately — going extra innings on Sunday, having Brad Lincoln fill in for Eric Bedard on Monday, and Kevin Correia not getting out of the fourth inning last night. The Pirates don’t have another off day until Thursday the 24th. I’d expect a bat to be brought up for this weekend’s Interleague series against Detroit.

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