Arizona Diamondbacks (57-59) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (69-46)
Atlanta is not a place of success for the Diamondbacks. Over the weekend, they lost another series in Atlanta, and have not won one there since 2007. Yikes. The Diamondbacks offense kinda died in the first and third games of the series, scoring just 3 runs total in those two games, spoiling good pitching performances. I guess I will finally give up any illusions of playoff hope I have been holding onto, now that Arizona is 8.5 back of first in the division, and 10 back in the wild card. :-(. Going by Pythagorean expectation, if you're into that kind of thing, the D-Backs should actually have a record of 61-54, which would have them right in the hunt. I guess that doesn't really matter at all though, so I say the D-Backs should start calling up all the young guys and start gearing up for next year. I'm sure Dave Stewart is reading this, and will thank me for this point of view nobody has ever thought of before.
On the other side, we have the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are record-wise the second best team in the NL, yet are left with a wild card spot due to the Cardinals blowing everyone away. Their sweep of the Mets, capped of by a 8-1 victory Sunday, has them on a 4-game winning streak. They are a virtual lock for the playoffs, with Baseball Prospectus giving them a 92% chance of making the postseason. Their offense has been decent, 12th in runs scored, but the pitching staff led by Gerrit Cole and one of the best bullpens in the game is what has carried the Pirates to their 6 game lead in the wild card. They are 4th best in opposing runs scored per game, at 3.68. The previously mentioned offense is nothing to scoff at either, with 7 of their 9 top hitters having an OPS+ over 100. (I must admit, I spent 10 minutes trying to think of a pun for how the Pirates will be a tough opponent. I could not. I have failed you guys.)
- The return of Addison Reed is actually going pretty well, he hasn't allowed a run in his last 5 games. Andrew Chafin and Josh Collmenter also haven't allowed a run in the last 2 weeks, so hooray everybody wins.
- David Peralta is en fuego, batting .452 with 3 homers in his last 12 games. Pollock has been flying more under the radar, with a .383 average and 6 steals.
- All-Star reliever Mark Melancon has struggled in his last 7 appearances, with a 4.26 ERA. When the D-Backs do have to face him, it seems like they have a much better chance than I would've said earlier in the year.
- Hudson, Hernandez, Ziegler, and Hessler have been trying as hard as they can to make up for those zeroes of the other relievers over the last couple weeks, 2 of them with ERAs in the 5s, and 2 of them exceeding 9. Hmm...
- Andrew McCutchen has been getting on base as much as the guy he beat out for MVP a couple years ago, with a .490 OBP in his last 11 games. Luckily he's not as fleet footed as he once was, with just one stolen base in that time frame.
Randall Delgado has made one rehab appearance where he gave up 2 runs in 1 inning. I'd imagine he makes another appearance before coming back to the Majors, so we probably won't see him during this series. Infielder went on rehab assignment on August 10, no word other than that on him. Same goes with catcher Gerald Laird.
The Pirates are without 3B Josh Harrison and SS Jordy Mercer, both of whom were sent to AAA for rehab on the 11th. It looks like they will not be activated in time for this series.
Andrew Chafin threw 23 pitches Sunday, the only D-Back who they may avoid using on Monday.
We probably won't see lefty Antonio Bastardo, who threw 36 pitches in 2 scoreless innings Sunday.
Game 1: Jeremy Hellickson RHP (8-8, 4.73 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) vs Gerrit Cole RHP (14-6, 2.48 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
Hellickson's time as a starter with the Diamondbacks has to be running out soon, right? He might have used this as motivation in his last start, where he went 8 innings and gave up just one unearned run, in his best start of the season. Of course, it was against the Phillies, so you can't invest too much into it, but hey, maybe he's turning it around. Positive thinking is better than negative thinking.
The #1 overall pick of 2011 is living up to that status, this year one of the best pitchers in the National League. He's not doing quite as well now as he did before the all-star break, if you want to call a 3.16 ERA not doing well. He gets two of the best results a pitcher can get on a regular basis, strikeouts (9.02 K/9), and ground balls (50.4% of batted balls are on the ground). I personally have not seen him pitch, but going by his fangraphs numbers it looks like he's a power pitcher, throwing a 95 MPH four-seamer 68% of the time this year. Huge advantage Pirates.
Game 2: Chase Anderson RHP (5-5, 4.31 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) vs Francisco Liriano LHP (8-6, 3.19 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
It looks like June 23, in a start against the Rockies, is when Chase Anderson's season went down the drain. He gave up 8 runs in 4.2 innings, and hasn't turned things around since. In the 8 games since, Anderson has had a 7.41 ERA, and has allowed 3 times as many homers as he did in his first 13 starts. Yikes. So, what happened? I have no idea, but he needs to return to his early form soon if he wants keep his spot in the rotation next year.
After some occasionally up and mostly down seasons in Minnesota, Liriano has now had 3 consecutive sub-3.50 ERA seasons (including this year) with the Pirates. The good news for the Diamondbacks is that Liriano has struggled at home this season, with an ERA of 4 at PNC Park. Like Cole, he gets a lot of Ks and strikeouts with his fastball, slider, and change combo. Advantage Pirates.
Game 3: Robbie Ray LHP (3-8, 3.29 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) vs J.A. Happ LHP (4-7, 4.64 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Robbie is coming off of one of his worst starts of the year, where he gave up 3 runs in 4.1 innings, striking out none, and walking 4. That's not very good. Ray has performed extremely well when out of the small confines of Chase Field, with a 2.54 ERA on the road. Whether that is a coincidence or not, I don't know, but I do know that it's good news for Arizona.
J.A. Happ, who seems to have pitched for half the teams in the majors, is now being an average at best pitcher for the Pirates after a deadline trade from Seattle. In his last 4 starts, he has gone a total of 11 innings, and has allowed 13 earned runs in that span. That's not really the kind of ratio you're looking for. It looks like Happ is one of those guys who just kinda makes up pitches on the fly, pitch f/x showing that he's thrown 5 different pitches this year, one of them being a fastball that averages 90 MPH. Advantage D-Backs.
Come up with your own X-Factors, I'm going to sleep. If you really want me to pick someone, I guess I'll go with the Diamondbacks outfield and Pirates infielder Jung-Ho Kang. I actually just put him here because he has a cool name, but hey whaddya know he also has the 2nd best WAR for the Pirates.
Pirates starting pitching dominates D-Back offense, Pirates sweep.