Series Preview: The Astros

Current record: 55-44, 2nd place in NL Central, 2.5 games back

Up Next: Houston Astros, 34-65, 6th place in NL Central, 24.5 games back

Season Series: 6-1 (2-1, 4-0)

Notes: This isn’t the same Astros team the Bucs faced three weeks ago. Gone are Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers. SS Jed Lowrie is on the DL. Their best pitcher left is Bud Norris, who won’t face the Pirates this series because he started last night. This is baseball so anything can happen, but the Astros are really bad right now and Bucs should take three or four games here.

Familiar Faces: Chris Snyder, Brian Bixler

Probable Pitchers
Thursday: RH A.J. Burnett (11-3, 107.2 IP, 89 K, 3.59 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
vs. LH Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 29.0 IP, 11 K, 4.03 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)

Friday: RH Jeff Karstens (3-2, 46.0 IP, 31 K, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
vs. RH Jordan Lyles (2-7, 73.2 IP, 44 K, 5.50 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)

Karstens hasn’t been officially announced, but this is his turn and he’s pitching well so I wouldn’t mess things up.

Saturday: LH Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 130.2 IP, 89 K, 3.79 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
vs. TBA

This was supposed to be Wandy’s start for Houston. Instead he’ll make his Pirates’ debut. So far, the Astros haven’t announced a replacement.

Sunday: RH James McDonald (10-4, 125.2 IP, 110 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
vs. RH Lucas Harrell (7-7, 121.2 IP, 81 K, 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)

Just announced – Erik Bedard‘s start will be pushed back to Monday’s game. I have no problem giving the typically injury prone Bedard some extra rest, even when he’s pitching well. Kevin Correia has been moved to the bullpen.

Tonight’s Lineup:
Starling Marte LF (Major League debut)
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones RF
Casey McGehee 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
A.J. Burnett P

Starling Marte Called Up

Its the move some fans have been calling for since spring training: OF Starling Marte has been called up to the big leagues. He makes his debut tonight, leading off and playing LF.

In 431 PA at AAA Indianapolis, Marte was putting up a very good .286/.347/500 line. He lead the team with 62 RBI’s, 13 triples and 194 total bases, and was second with 21 doubles, 12 HR, 21 SB and .847 OPS.

To make room for Marte and newly acquired pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, RHP Evan Meek and OF Gorkys Hernandez were both optioned back to AAA.

Trade Deadline Tree: Wandy Rodriguez

The Pirates made a big splash to upgrade their rotation tonight, adding LHP Wandy Rodriguez from Houston. In return, the Astros get LHP Rudy Owens, LHP Colton Cain and OF Robbie Grossman.

Wandy has made a league leading 21 starts this season. While his 3.79 ERA is his highest since 2007, his 1.27 WHIP is his lowest since 2009. His strikeouts are down this year, but he’s walking fewer batters too for a 2.78 K/BB ratio. Rodriguez is an immediate upgrade to the rotation. Kevin Correia will likely be the odd man out but nothing has been announced yet.  It looks like Rodriguez will start this weekend in Houston. I honestly wouldn’t be too surprised if they skipped James McDonald‘s next start just to give him a break.

Owens had shown remarked improvement in his second season at AAA Indianapolis. In 19 starts over 117.1 innings the 6′ 3″ lefty from Arizona posted an 8-5 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, and 6.5 K/9.

Cain is also a 6′ 3″ lefty and gets to return to his home state. In his first season at High-A Bradenton, Cain has thrown 75 innings to the tune of  a 3-5 record, 4.20 ERA, 1.240 WHIP, and 6.1 K/9.

Robbie Grossman was the Pirates second best OF prospect coming into the season and is also a Texas native. He was putting up a .262/.374/.403 in his first season at AA Altoona.

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.

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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