Series Preview: The Royals

Current record: 29-27, 2nd place in NL Central, 2.0 games back

Up Next: Kansas City Royals, 24-31, 4th place in AL Central, 7.0 games back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: Interleague play is back for the next 15 games. For the Royals tonight, that means they lose the DH and their defense gets shifted around to keep their best hitters in the lineup. DH Billy Butler goes to first, 1B Eric Hosmer goes to RF, and RF Jeff Francoeur moves to CF. The Pirates have been playing well and should have no trouble with the weak Royals pitching.

Familiar Faces: Surpisingly, none.

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH Luke Hochevar (3-6, 57.0 IP, 46 K, 6.63 ERA, 1.54 WHIP)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (3-6, 55.2 IP, 56 K, 3.72 ERA, 1.40 WHIP)

Saturday: LH Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 12.0 IP, 5 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
vs. RH James McDonald (5-2, 71.1 IP, 71 K, 2.14 ERA, 0.95 WHIP)

Sunday: LH Bruce Chen (5-5, 70.0 IP, 48 K, 4.37 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
vs. RH A.J. Burnett (5-2, 55.0 IP, 50 K, 3.76 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)

Royals
Alex Gordon LF
Yuniesky Betancourt 2B
Billy Butler 1B
Mike Moustakas 3B
Jeff Francoeur CF
Eric Hosmer RF
Alcides Escobar SS
Humberto Quintero C
Luke Hochevar P

Alex Presley LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones RF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Jose Tabata RF
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
Erik Bedard P

Grilli Activated, Locke Optioned

Relief pitcher Jason Grilli has been activated from the Bereavement List. Jeff Locke was optioned back to AAA. Locke made no appearances in his three days with the big league club.

Today’s series finale against the Mets is at 12:30. The Pirates are off tomorrow.

Gorkys Hernandez gets his first start today. Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez have the day off versus lefty pitcher Jon Niese . Lineup:

Josh Harrison RF
Gorkys Hernandez LF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Neil Walker 2B
Casey McGehee 1B
Rod Barajas C
Yamaico Navarro 3B
Clint Barmes SS
Charlie Morton P

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 Marlins

Current record: 16-18, 3rd place in NL Central, 4 games back

Up Next: Miami Marlins, 18-16, 4th place in NL East, 7.5 games back

The Pirates head down to Miami for a quick two game set against the newly orange-clad Marlins. The Fish have an 85 OPS+ and 117 ERA+ which means that the pitchers have been doing more than the bats to help the team win. For comparison, the Pirates are at 72 and 117. Marlins Stadium has been a hitters park thus far in its short history. Miami is scoring 4.5 runs and allowing 4.64 at home, vs 3.25 and 3.15 on the road. The Marlins spent a ton of money to bring in free agents Jose Reyes (started slow, heating up), Mark Buehrle (as good as expected), and Heath Bell (already removed from the closer role). Giancarlo Stanton (133 OPS+) and Omar Infante (153 OPS+) are leading the Marlins’ offense most nights.

Probable Pitchers
Monday: RH Brad Lincoln (2-0, 14.1 IP, 16 K, 0.63 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
vs. RH Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 40.1 IP, 46 K, 2.01 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)

Lincoln fills in tonight for what would have been Erik Bedard‘s turn. Bedard will go on Wednesday. Sanchez is pitching like an ace this year and strikes out a ton of batters. The pitching will have to keep things close (again) for the Pirates to have a shot tonight.

Tuesday: RH Kevin Correia (1-3, 36.1 IP, 13 K, 3.47 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
vs. RH Josh Johnson (0-3, 38.1 IP, 32 K, 5.87 ERA, 1.70 WHIP)

Correia hopes to continue getting  good results from his smoke-and-mirrors show. Johnson has yet to regain his Cy Young candidate form after injuring his shoulder last year but he still strikes out a lot of hitters.

Lineups:
Jose Tabata RF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Casey McGehee 1B
Alex Presley LF
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
Brad Lincoln P

Marlins
Jose Reyes SS
Omar Infante 2B
Hanley Ramirez 3B
Logan Morrison LF
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Emilio Bonifacio CF
John Buck C
Anibal Sanchez P

Sunday Notes

Late Friday night the Pirates acquired Jeff Larish from the Red Sox for cash considerations. Larish is a non-prospect at this point and will go to AAA, where the organization already has several 1B/DH types. Speculation around the internet seems to be that this move only makes since if one of Jake Fox or Matt Hague is going to be called up.

Erik Bedard has been scratched from Monday’s start. He had back spasms after one inning in his last start on Wednesday. Brad Lincoln will start Monday’s game and Bedard is no scheduled to go on Wednesday.

Heck of a game last night. The Pirates beat up on J.A. Happ like they should have and Charlie Morton was very effective after tweaking his sinker since his last start. The rubber game is today at 1:35pm, barring any rain delays.

Lineups:
Jose Tabata LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Casey McGehee 1B
Yamaico Navarro RF
Rod Barajas C
Josh Harrison SS
A.J. Burnett P

Astros:
Jordan Schafer CF
Jed Lowrie SS
J.D. Martinez LF
Carlos Lee 1B
Brian Bogusevic RF
Chris Johnson 3B
Jason Castro C
Marwin Gonzalez 2B
Wandy Rodriguez P

Late update:

Pirates

RHP Joel Hanrahan reinstated from Bereavement List…RHP Daniel McCutchen on D.L. with left oblique strain; suffered in BP Saturday.

Where’s the Scoring?

Strong pitching and missed opportunities were the story of last night’s game. The Pirates had a runner on third and no outs in the fourth AND bases loaded with no outs in the sixth and failed to score each time. There’s no excuse for not scoring in both situations. Even worse, they completely wasted a top notch start from James McDonald.

No one’s out of the prediction contest yet though. The Pirates highest scoring games this year have been 9, 7 and 6 runs, plus 5 runs five times. Predictions came in between 2 and 16 runs, although last night’s shutout lowers the “sweet spot,” which should have been in the 9-11 range, down to 5-8.

Back at it tonight. The lineup:
Jose Tabata LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Casey McGehee 1B
Yamaico Navarro RF
Clint Barmes SS
Michael McKenry C
Charlie Morton P

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!

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