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Series Preview: Diamondbacks @ Pirates

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The D-Backs head out to PNC Park to take on their 2nd NL Central opponent in a row.

Arizona Diamondbacks v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks (21-25) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (23-19)

At this point, nothing the Diamondbacks do will surprise me. After a 5 game losing streak, where the D-Backs looked dead, they went out and won a series against the hot Yankees, and over the weekend took 2 of 3 against the Cardinals. They could lose 10 in a row or win 10 in a row, and neither streak would come as much of a shock. The starting rotation has showed some promise in the last 6 games, but I feel like I've written that sentence a couple times, only to have my hopes and dreams crushed by a blowout loss.

State of the Pirates

The Pirates have one of the best offenses in the NL, scoring an average of 4.83 runs per game, good for 4th in the league. They have accomplished this with a very well-balanced attack: 10 out of their 11 leaders in plate appearances have an OPS+ higher than 100. They have been led this year by Gregory Polanco (147 OPS+, 3rd in majors in doubles), Starling Marte (.325/.369/.471, 3rd in stolen bases), and John Jaso (.312/.380/.468). Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, who were supposed to lead the offense, have also been good, but not quite as good as expected. The pitching has been the Pirates' problem this season. They allow 4.71 runs per game, 10th in the NL. Everyone in the starting rotation, with the exception of Gerrit Cole, has an ERA above 4.40, which is not a very good way to win games. In the bullpen, the late inning guys (Mark Melancon, Tony Watson) have been excellent, while everyone else has not.

Good News

  • In his last 6 games, Goldy has had a triple slash of .400/.556/.550 with a homer and 6 RBIs. It's just 6 games, but maybe this is the start of a turn around for him.
  • Nick Ahmed is batting .400 in his last 5 games, bringing his batting average to a whopping .205 on the year.
  • Andrew McCutchen is on a cold streak, with a .227 batting average in his last 5 games.

Bad News

  • The D-Backs bullpen has been pretty bad in the last week, with an ERA of 5.14.
  • Bad news isn't fun, so I'll stop there.

Injury Report

Rubby de la Rosa had his last start skipped with blisters and a sore groin (hopefully not related), and will rejoin the rotation on Wednesday. Josh Collmenter has been solid in two rehab outings with Reno, going a total of 6.1 innings and allowing 1 run, but there is still no word on when he'll be back.

Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang is day-to-day with a left hand injury. Reliever Ryan Vogelsong was hit in the head by a pitch in Monday's game, and was taken to the hospital. More details will be released on Tuesday, but according to early reports there was damage to his left eye. It is extremely unlikely he'll be able to play in this series.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Shelby Miller RHP (1-5, 6.64 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) vs Francisco Liriano LHP (3-3, 4.63 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

Shelby has been serviceable for 3 starts in a row now, going 5.2-6 innings and allowing 2-3 runs in each game. It's nice to see some semblance of a decent pitcher after how awful he was to start the season, but he needs to be better than just okay. I'm surprised I haven't seen many people talking about his righty/lefty splits. Lefties have a triple slash of .326/.450/.533 against him this season, which are some crazy numbers. I still think he will return to form as a low 3's ERA pitcher, it's just taking longer than we would all like.

Liriano's ERA is inflated by a couple of very bad outings, but overall he has been solid this year. Half of his starts have been quality starts, and 2 others just miss the criteria. The D-Backs should be happy if they can do what they did to him earlier this year, when they scored 4 runs on 6 innings. He has shut down lefties his entire career, holding them to an OPS of .580, so Chip Hale may choose to bench Lamb in this game. Advantage Pirates.

Game 2: Rubby de la Rosa RHP (4-4, 3.53 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) vs Jeff Locke LHP (2-3, 5.00 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)

After sparking outrage from Pitters everywhere when he was selected as the D-Backs #4 starter during Spring Training, Rubby has proved all the doubters wrong. In his last 5 starts, 4 of them have been 6+ innings with 1 or less runs allowed. One of the biggest turnarounds for Rubby has been how he has pitched against lefties. Remember how awful he was last year against them? This year, lefties have an OPS of just .536 against him. For comparison, league average is .736 Given the struggles elsewhere in the rotation, Rubby will need to continue being the rock until others step it up.

Ever since his successful first full year in the majors in 2012, Jeff Locke has progressively gotten worse every season. His big problem this year has been walks. He has the 6th highest BB/9 for qualifying pitchers, walking 4.6 batters per 9 innings. Arizona should find a fair amount of success against him. Advantage D-Backs.

Game 3: Patrick Corbin LHP (2-3, 3.99 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) vs Gerrit Cole RHP (5-3, 2.79 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)

Corbin's season has been a tale of 3 thirds. 1st third was great, 2nd third was pretty bad, and the last 3 starts were all good. Given his track record, his first and last 3 starts are probably more indicative of his skill than that rough patch in the middle.

Cole has not been the Super-Ace that he was last season, but is still an ace nonetheless. He is the idea of a power pitcher personified, throwing his 4-seamer in the mid to upper 90s, and throwing it often. Advantage Pirates.

Keys to the Series

Starting Pitching- This is what has been holding both the D-Backs and the Pirates back all year. There were some good signs in the last week for Arizona, and it'll be interesting to see whether or not this is just a fluke.

The Stars- Both Andrew McCutchen and Paul Goldschmidt have not been as good as they have in past seasons. If they pick it up, the offenses will receive a huge boost.

Prediction

The D-Backs are unable to keep their series win streak alive, and drop 2 of 3.