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Series Preview #25: D-backs @ Pirates

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We sail into buccaneer territory, ready for battle...

The Festival Of Light Is Unveiled At Longleat Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Capture of Fort Rocher took place on 9 February 1654, during the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659). Equipped with one siege battery, a Spanish expedition of 700 troops attacked the buccaneer stronghold of Tortuga, capturing the Fort_de_Rocher and 500 prisoners including 330 buccaneers and goods valued at approximately 160,000 pieces-of-eight. The Spanish burned the colony to the ground and slaughtered its inhabitants, leaving behind a fort manned by 150 soldiers.
Wikipedia

After taking two of three against the Pirates at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks head for Pittsburgh, seeking further success. It’ll be interesting to see whether there will be any hangover from a somewhat fractious series at Chase Field. The Pirates took a 5-0 lead, but then Joe Musgrove deliberately plunked Chris Owings, apparently in retaliation for Braden Shipley’s wildness [never mind that Owings was actually Musgrove’s third hit batter of the day!]. This appeared to waken the slumbering Diamondbacks, who reeled off the next seventeen runs in the series. Musgrove, who openly admitted it was deliberate, was fined a token $1,000 - about 0.2% of his annual salary, and was thoroughly unrepentant:

“That’s the rules of the game. If you potentially throw at guys, you’re going to get fined for it. But like I said before, it’s something that’s been around for a long time and something I really believe in. We don’t like our guys getting thrown at, especially J-Hay, who gets consistently thrown at... We’re just looking out for our teammates, and if we got to pay the fine, we’ll pay the fine, but we just want people to know that that’s not something that we’re going to let slide by.”

Fun fact. Josh Harrison has been hit just four times this year. Fewer than Paul Goldschmidt, not even close to most on his own team - Francisco Cervelli has nine - and ranks Harrison... equal 43rd in the majors. If he’s being “consistently thrown at”, seems pitchers are doing a spectacularly bad job this year. So I’m calling bullshit on Musgrove’s claim. We’ll get to see him in Friday’s game, when he faces Patrick Corbin, and will find out whether he pursues his... old-school/Neanderthal (depending on your view) approach, or if he learned a valuable lesson from the Pirates loss. I’m hoping for the former, and some more free base-runners. Of course, I’m not the one who’ll be wearing a 93 mph fastball!

Since leaving Arizona, Pittsburgh have been entrenched at home, taking two of three from the Reds and splitting the first two games against the Brewers - the third and final game is taking place at the time of going to press. Pending the outcome of that game, the Pirates sit in fourth place in the NL West, one game below .500. Their current win percentage is actually better than they managed in either 2016 or 2017, which is somewhat surprising, considering they cut payroll significantly, trading both their top position player (Andew McCutchen) and pitcher (Gerrit Cole) from last season over the winter: Musgrove was one of the players received from Houston in exchange for Cole.

Stepping up their production to replace the exitees, Cervelli and Starlin Marte have both already surpassed their 2017 bWAR production, while Corey Dickerson (traded from the Rays, in exchange for a package including SnakePit favorite, Daniel Hudson) has also looked impressive. All told, the hitters collectively are not far short of the 2017 output, at 9.8 bWAR vs. 10.7. The pitching still has a bit further to go, though a generally young rotation (Ivan Nova is the only man older than 26 to have started for them this year) have shown flashes of potential. As well as Musgrove, this includes Jameson Taillon and Trevor Kidd, whom we’ll see on Sunday and Saturday respectively.

Interest, however, appears to remain low in Pittsburgh, with the average crowd at PNC Park 16,686. That ranks ahead only of the Marlins (whom we’ll see next) in the National League, and is barely half the 30,847 average, the last time the Pirates made the post-season in 2015. There seems to be a fair amount of resentment against current ownership among local fans: “60,000-plus signed an anti-[Bob] Nutting petition prior to the season and said they’d boycott games.” They had a three-match series against the Rockies early in the year watched by fewer than 27,000. Not per game. TOTAL: none of them even reached nine thousand. While weather certainly played a factor, the recent Pirates slump won’t help.

The weather has the potential to throw a big spanner into the works this series, as the forecast below shows. Friday and Saturday look to be the games most at risk, so it’s possible we could end up with a double-header on Sunday. This is (obviously) our only trip to Pittsburgh this year, so I imagine they’ll do everything they can to get the games in, and avoid the need for a one-day revisit later in the year.

Pitching match-ups

Thursday, June 21: Zack Godley (28, RHP, 7-5, 4.77) vs Ivan Nova (31, RHP, 4-5, 4.42)

This will be a match-up of pitchers who both missed the opponent during the series in Arizona. Godley has struggled with his control of late, and good starts have tended to come from him battling through base-runners. Nova is, as noted above, the veteran of the Pirates’ rotation, and is coming off a couple of good starts, winning against the Cubs in Chicago, and over the Reds on Saturday. Edge: Pirates

Friday, June 22: Patrick Corbin (28, LHP, 6-3, 3.48) vs. Joe Musgrove (25, RHP, 2-2, 3.68)

Corbin has hit a speed-bump of late, allowing five or more earned runs in three of his last four outings. That includes the 9-5 victory over the Pirates on June 11 - perhaps getting out of Chase where all three of those starts took place, will help. He’s facing the same opponent as on the 11th, and Musgrove took the loss his last time on the mound, allowing six runs in 4.1 innings to the Reds. I’d particularly like us to win this one. Edge: D-backs

Saturday, June 23: Zack Greinke (34, RHP, 6-5, 3.90) vs. Trevor Williams (26, RHP, 6-4, 4.00)

The Diamondbacks opted to tweak their starters around the off-day today, keeping Greinke on his regular rotation. Zack has been burned by the long-ball of late: he has allowed five home-runs over the last three starts and 16.2 innings. However, four were of the solo variety, as has been his trend (12 of 16 this year). After being blasted by the D-backs, Williams was brilliant against the Brewers, tossing seven shutout innings of one-run ball. Edge: even

Sunday, June 24: Clay Buchholz (33, RHP, 1-1, 2.94) vs. Jameson Taillon (26, RHP, 4-6, 4.03)

Buchholz, conversely, gets an extra day of rest. He has received a no-decision in each of his last three outings, including his worst outing as a Diamondback, allowing five runs in four innings against these Pirates. He did bounce-back against the Mets, holding them to one run over 5.2 innings. Taillon got the W in the series finale at Chase Field, but lost to the Brewers yesterday, giving up three runs over five frames. Edge: D-backs

Poll

The usual poll, but pirate-movie themed! How many wins for the D-backs?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    0 - Hook
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    1 - Cutthroat Island
    (2 votes)
  • 33%
    2 - Pirates of the Caribbean
    (19 votes)
  • 46%
    3 - Anne of the Indies
    (26 votes)
  • 14%
    4 - The Princess Bride
    (8 votes)
56 votes total Vote Now