Series Preview #29, @ Pittsburgh Pirates

Kent Horner

Arizona's long road trip continues into Pittsburgh, as the Diamondbacks hope their brief trip into fourth place motivates them to keep up their string of strong performances.

What's New?

Arizona finally escaped from the NL West cellar over the course of the weekend, briefly sneaking into fourth place as they took two out of three games in San Diego. In Friday's opener, luck struck for the second time for starter Brandon McCarthy, as he picked up his second win in San Diego (and second win overall) in 2014 after giving up a run over seven innings in the 2-1 win. Arizona took advantage of San Diego's putrid offense again on Saturday night, as starter Josh Collmenter went five innings of one run, five hit ball in the Diamondbacks' 3-1 win. The win saw the Diamondbacks move out of last place for the first time since early April. In Sunday's rubber match, starter Mike Bolsinger was simply undone by Padres starter Odrisamer Despaigne, who gave up just a run on five hits in 6.2 innings in picking up the 2-1 win in his second major league start.

The series of low-scoring games certainly did not help Arizona's offensive statistics. Their wRC+ ranking dropped to 24th in the majors (90), averaging 3.96 runs/game and  batting just .254/.307/.393 this season. One bright spot to look at, is that when Arizona does get a base hit, it goes a ways, with Arizona posting the 13th-best isolated power in the league (.139). They still get on-base at a league average rate, with a wOBA (weighted on-base percentage) ranking 17th in the majors (.308). Their pitching staff was strong this weekend, stepping themselves up to the fifth-worst team ERA in baseball (4.38). When adjusted for FIP (fielding independent pitching), the Diamondbacks have the 25th ranked pitching staff in baseball (4.08). Their starting rotation is filled with guys who pitch to contact, and as their BABIP has inflated to .307, it is easy to see why they have struggled. Arizona has now split their last ten games, and are 35-49 overall, 12 games behind San Francisco for first place in the NL West. They're one game behind San Diego for fourth place, and two games behind Colorado for third place.

Pittsburgh has been powered this season through their offense, which according to their wRC+ is eighth-best in baseball (104), averaging 4.02 runs/game and batting .257/.332/.385 in 2014. Their wOBA adjusts to .320, which is good for tenth best in the majors, and reflects an offense that has posted a 9.5 offensive WAR to this point. Where they do struggle offensively, however, is in their ability to strike out, where they strike out at the 14th-highest rate in baseball (20.5%). Pittsburgh's pitching staff has been average at best this season, as they are greatly missing the presence of right hander A.J. Burnett, who left in the offseason. They have the 15th-best team ERA in baseball this season (3.81), which when adjusted for FIP is good for just 22nd in the majors (3.92). They mostly run into trouble with allowing runners on with walks, walking batters at the 13th-highest rate in baseball (3.07 BB/9).

The Pirates are coming off one of their best series of the season, taking three of four games against the New York Mets. Arizona is continuing what is to be a ten-game home stand for Pittsburgh, where they are 24-19 this season. Pittsburgh has won seven of their last ten games overall, which has helped them very little in the ultra-competitive NL Central. The Pirates are 42-40 this season, eight games behind Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central. They are 6.5 games behind Cincinnati and St. Louis, who are tied for second in the division.

On The Mend

On Sunday, the Diamondbacks placed shortstop Chris Owings on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder ailment. He has missed four of his last six games, and is expected to get a MRI on Monday, according to Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona.

Pirates catcher Russell Martin is day-to-day and was out of the lineup Sunday with "soreness", according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Roster Moves

After Arizona placed shortstop Chris Owings on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, they selected the contract of shortstop Nick Ahmed from Triple-A Reno.

On Saturday, Pittsburgh activated right hander Gerrit Cole from the 15-day disabled list; in a resulting move, they optioned right hander Brandon Cumpton to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Month of Change?

It's July, and that means its the time of movement, with the trade deadline looming at the end of the month. So who's on their way out?

Aaron Hill: The second baseman has had a largely successful run in the desert, but with the recent roster moves there has been a surplus of middle infielders on Arizona's roster. Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, and Nick Ahmed are all fighting for playing time, and Hill is in the midst of a down year (.248/.287/.374 with six home runs, 40 RBIs). Hill is on a very team-friendly deal, and could easily draw interest from a contender looking for a right handed bat and second baseman.

Martin Prado: The main piece in the Justin Upton trade, Prado has been a disappointment in his two years in Arizona. He set a career high in RBIs in 2013, but also batted under .300 for just the second time as an everyday starter in his career. He is batting .268/.315/.3683  with three home runs a 35 RBIs in 82 games this season, and his ability to play a multitude of positions could make him an intriguing trade chip for a contender. If he goes, it could open up a potential move for one of the three young shortstops to third base.

While it is unknown that either of these guys will be on the move, it is an almost certainty that the Diamondbacks will be actively looking to wheel and deal this month.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Tuesday 4:05 PT: LHP Wade Miley (3-6, 4.78 ERA, 4.40 FIP) vs. LHP Jeff Locke (1-1, 3.74 ERA, 2.96 FIP)

The string of poor luck has continued for Miley, who has yet to win a game since May 10th. He struggled in his last start, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits over four innings in a no decision against the Indians. Locke is coming into this start off of two extra days' rest, and pitched well in his last outing (three earned runs over seven innings), picking up his first win of the season.

Game 2, Wednesday 4:05 PT: RHP Chase Anderson (5-3, 3.63 ERA, 4.98 FIP) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (4-9, 3.41 ERA, 3.70 FIP)

Anderson has now lost three in a row after winning his first five career starts, and struggled in his last outing. Anderson gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings against Cleveland, picking up the loss. Morton is looking to avoid his third straight loss, as he gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings in a loss his last time out. He has struck out 39 batters over his last 32 innings, and he has pitched particularly well at PNC Park (2-3, 2.22 ERA, given up just one home run over 44.2 inning) this season.

Game 3, Thursday 4:05 PT: RHP Brandon McCarthy (2-10, 5.11 ERA, 3.88 FIP) vs. RHP Vance Worley (2-0, 1.74 ERA, 3.78 FIP)

McCarthy has pitched well this season against the San Diego Padres, and that's about it. He's picked up his only two wins against them, and gave up just a run over seven innings in his last time out. McCarthy's name has been mentioned as one that could be moved before this month's deadline. Worley has been a stud since being acquired from Minnesota, pitching well in each of his three starts. He picked up the win in his last start, giving up a run over seven innings in a win against the Mets.

Series Pick'em

Outside of the rubber match, I think this series is a toss-up. I think Arizona takes one of three games here, as Wade Miley is simply due against a pitcher in Locke who may be shaking off some rust. Chase Anderson has shown he can be a better pitcher than his last three starts have shown, and should put together a solid outing. Worley has been solid and a secure bet for a decent outing throughout his career, while McCarthy has struggled with consistency this season.

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