Pirates @ Giants Series Preview: Another First Place Team Comes To Town


Jun 13, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman

Pedro Alvarez

(left) is late with a tag on San Francisco Giants left fielder

Gregor Blanco

(right) during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Thursday night the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town for a 4 game seires at AT&T Park. Earlier this season the Giants lost 2 of 3 in Pittsburgh.

These are not the same Pirates that have had a losing record for the past 20 seasons. In fact, they come to San Francisco holding first place in the NL Central by 1 game over the Cardinals.

Currently Pittsburgh is 74-52 under manager Clint Hurdle. You remember him. He was the guy that took Colorado to the World Series in 2007. This is his 3rd season with the Pirates, and they have improved every season under Hurdle.

So who are the stars? Well it’s mostly the entire pitching staff. The Pirates are tied with the Braves for the best team ERA in all of baseball (3.18). Amazingly they have used 26 different pitchers this season, tied for the most in the National League.

Jason Grilli has taken over the closer’s role for the Bucs. After bouncing around for much of his career he now solidifies the back end. He and Sergio ROmo are tied for 5th in the NL in saves with 30. The whole bullpen has been fantastic for Pittsburgh posting a 2.80 ERA. Third best in all of baseball.

It’s not all pitching from these Pirates. Pedro Alvarez is having his breakout season when it comes to power. He is tied with Paul Goldschmidt for the NL lead in hmoe runs with 31. It’s his career high. He is also hitting only .233, so it’s all or nothing with him.

Andrew McCutchen is once again having a stellar season. The three time All Star leads the Pirates in batting average at .319. He’s hit over 30 doubles and is closing in on 20 home runs for the third straight season. He’s the Pirates version of Buster Posey. According to Baseball Reference, McCutchen is 3rd in the NL with a WAR of 6.4. He can hurt you in so many different ways.

The pitching matchups for this 4 game series are…

Thursday (7:15pt): Jeff Locke (9-4, 2.90 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (8-8, 4.35)

Friday (7:15pt) : Charlie Morton (4-3, 3.67) vs. Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.82)

Saturday (6:05pt) : Francisco Liriano (14-5, 2.53) vs. Tim Lincecum (6-13, 4.53)

Sunday (1:05pt) : A.J. Burnett (6-6, 3.09) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.29)

The lineups have been released for tonight’s game at AT&T Park.

Jeff Locke is starting for the Pirates against Matt Cain. Locke is a left handed pitcher and the Giants have struggled to get the bats going against southpaws this season. The plus side is Locke has not been his All Star self lately. Since the break he is 1-2 with a 5.58 ERA. Last Saturday against the DBacks Locke had his worst outing of the season. He gave up 10 hits and 8 runs in just 2 2/3 innings.

Matt Cain has been the opposite since the All Star break. He has a quality start in 5 straight games and hasn’t given up more than 3 runs since the beginning of July. His ERA has declined in each of his last 6 starts. Brett Pill gets the call in LF tonight. It’s his first start out there this season. Brandon Belt stays in the 3 hole against a lefty. He has thrived in that role this month. Buster Posey has now gone 27 games without a home run. Maybe Locke can be his antidote. The Giants also announced a couple of roster moves today.

Well, at least Kickham ate up some innings yesterday, his reward is a trip back down. Thanks Mike!

Enjoy the series everybody.