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.

Series Preview: The Cubs

It’s been a great week on the road for me- nine days of visiting family and friends, going to ballparks I’d never seen and spending lots of time with my exceedingly better half. As is usually the case after a long trip there’s a lot for me to catch up on. The Pirates went 6-3 while I was away, which I’ll wrap up in later posts. For now, here’s the Cubs Preview (abridged.)

Current Record: 54-40, 2nd place in NL Central, 0.5 games back

Cubs record: 38-56, 5th place in NL Central, 16.5 games back

Probable Pitchers
Monday: RH Jeff Samardzija (6-8, 4.57 ERA)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (5-10, 4.55)

Tuesday: LH Paul Maholm (8-6, 4.09)
vs. RH James McDonald (10-3, 2.93)

Maholm looked pretty good on Thursday against Miami. JMac has been shaky.

Wednesday: RH Ryan Dempster(???) (5-4, 2.11)
vs. RH Kevin Correia (7-6, 4.31)

Late breaking word had the Cubs and Braves agreeing on a trade of Dempster for Randall Delgado. Then, Dempster said he hadn’t been traded. Bottom line is that this matchup may change.

Monday Morning Quickie

On the road again today, but I wanted to post a few quick notes.

Tough series loss to the Brewers. One bad inning yesterday cost them the game, but the defense was shaky before that. A.J. Burnett pitched really well.

Miller Park is a great stadium, well worth the trip to go see it. It turned out that yesterday was also the day of @MillerParkDrunk’s Pants Party tailgate so I got to meet some of my favorite writers: The Common Man, Carson Cistulli, and Jack Moore.

A special thanks goes out to our gracious hosts Larry Granillo and Annemarie Chapdelaine for opening their home to us for the weekend. You guys are great.

Probable pitchers vs Colorado :

Monday: Jeff Karstens vs. Jeff Francis
Tuesday: Erik Bedard vs. Christian Friedrich
Wednesday: James McDonald vs TBA

Series Preview: The Brewers

Current record: 48-37, 1st place in NL Central, 1.0 game ahead

Up Next: Milwaukee Brewers, 40-45, 4th place in NL Central, 8.0 games back

Season Series: 2-1

Notes: Finally, baseball is back from the All Star break. The last time the Pirates went to Milwaukee they had just gotten to .500 at 25-25. They’re record since then has been a lights out 23-12. Milwaukee was 5 games under then and is still 5 games under now. Ryan Braun leads his team in almost as many hitting categories as Andrew McCutchen leads the Pirates

Familiar Faces: Nyjer Morgan, Aramis Ramirez, Cesar Izturis, Jose Veras

Probable Pitchers
Friday: RH James McDonald (9-3, 110.0 IP, 100 K, 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP)
vs. RH Zack Greinke (9-3, 111.0 IP, 111 K, 3.32 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)

Two aces go against each other. This could be one of Greinke’s last starts for the Brewers, as he’s been named in several trade rumors.

Saturday: RH Kevin Correia (5-6, 91.1 IP, 35 K, 4.34 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)
vs. Marco Estrada (0-3, 51.0 IP, 55 K, 4.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)

Underwhelming! Estrada’s actually pitched pretty well since returning from a quad injury. Correia’s been put in this spot so that his softer stuff can serve as a buffer between the similar repertoires of McDonald and…

Sunday: RH A.J. Burnett (10-2, 93.0 IP, 79 K, 3.68 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)
vs. Yovani Gallardo (7-6, 108.1 IP, 107 K, 3.74 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)

I’m looking forward to seeing this one live. That’s right! I’m road tripping to Milwaukee this weekend with my wife. We’ll be visiting the esteemable @Wezen_ball and his lovely fiance. After that we’re going to spend the rest of the week in Chicago, so postings may not fall on a regular schedule, if at all. Expect plenty of pictures when I can upload them.

2012 Home Run Derby Preview

Andrew McCutchen was selected Saturday night to participate in the 2012 Home Run Derby. McCutchen is replacing the injured Giancarlo Stanton, who underwent knee surgery and is out 4-6 weeks.

Cutch will have to buck a trend of poor Pirate performances. In 2005 Jason Bay hit zero home runs at Comerica Park. 1992 saw Barry Bonds hit a measly 2 homers out of Jack Murphy Stadium. And in 1990, Bobby Bonilla put up a goose egg in Wrigley. (It’s worth noting that there were only 5 home runs hit in that entire derby combined. Ryne Sandberg lead the way with 3.)

2012 Home Run Derby participants (Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City):

National League
Matt Kemp, OF, LAD
HR this season: 12
Career high: 39 (2011)
Prior HR Derby results: last in 2011, 2 total HRs

Carlos Beltran, OF, STL
HR this season: 20
Career high: 41 (2006)
Prior HR Derby results: None

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL
HR this season: 17
Career high: 34 (2010)
Prior HR Derby results: None

Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT
HR this season: 18
Career high: 23 (2011)
Prior HR Derby results: None

American League
Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY
HR this season: 20
Career high: 29 (2010)
Prior HR Derby results: 2011 Champion, 32 total HRs

Mark Trumbo, 3B, LAA
HR this season: 22
Career high: 29 (2011)
Prior HR Derby results: None

Prince Fielder, 1B, DET
HR this season: 15
Career high: 50 (2007)
Prior HR Derby results: 2009 Champion, 23 total HRs, 2007 6th place, 3 total HRs

Jose Bautista, OF, TOR
HR this season: 27
Career high: 54 (2010)
Prior HR Derby results: 2011 6th place, 4 total HRs