New feature boys and girls! In “behind enemy lines” we invite a blogger from an opposing team to preview the upcoming series from their side of things, hope you enjoy it! Today, Alex who runs Manny Sanguillen’s Barbecue (A pirates blog) gives us a first hand look at the Pirates heading into this series. You can follow Alex on Twitter @Sangys_BBQ
Your Chicago Cubs have lost nine games in a row and it doesn’t look like there will be a saving grace. The Pirates are looking to extend the Cubs losing streak to at least ten games, which would be their first double-digit losing streak since 1997, when they lost 14 in a row. The good news for those who want the record to stand is that the Pirates haven’t won on a Friday this season — they have even been shut out three times, which includes a near no-hitter tossed by Justin Verlander on the 18th.
The best thing for the Pirates this season has been their pitching, and by a large margin. Their team ERA of 3.33 is third in the National League.
Game 1: A.J. Burnett (2-2, 4.78 ERA)
A.J. Burnett is the best Pirates starter this season and by far. Despite his ERA hovering around 5.00, Burnett has only had one rocky start, which was a 2 2/3 inning debacle against the St. Louis Cardinals in which he allowed 12 runs. If you subtract that game, his ERA is 2.06, which would be fifth in the Majors and the National League. At home this season, Burnett has a 1.57 ERA in three starts, as well as a WHIP of 0.78 and a K/9 ratio of 8.2. Over his career against the Cubs, Burnett is 4-0 with a 4.06 ERA in five starts – not so good, but the last time A.J. Burnett threw in the National League was in 2005. This game seems to be the rubber match of the series, with Burnett and Dempster going at it.
Game 2: Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.50 ERA)
The whipping boy of the Pirates’ rotation takes the bump on Saturday for game two of the three-game set. When the Pirates acquired A.J. Burnett over the offseason, oddly enough the man who is starting the day before him, Correia was expected to be the odd man out of the rotation, or even demoted to AAA. When Burnett shattered his orbital bones in Spring Training during Clint Hurdle’s annual bunting tournament, which really does exist, and Charlie Morton wasn’t ready for the season, Correia got another chance. His 4.50 ERA and 1.07 K/BB ratio show exactly why he wasn’t expected to be in the rotation at the beginning of the season. Last season, Correia was better on the road than at home, as evidenced by his home/away splits from the 2011 season. However, his home/road splits have been nearly equal this season, having an ERA of 4.50 at both PNC Park and on the road, albeit having three less starts at PNC. Last season against your Cubs, Correia was absolutely terribad. In four starts, Correia somehow broke even at 2-2 despite having an ERA of 7.11 and a God-awful 1.79 WHIP. I don’t care if you’ve scored what the Pirates have this season (2.9 runs per game), when this guy is taking the mound, you have a good chance of winning.
Game 3: Erik Bedard (2-5, 3.52 ERA)
The second new member of the Pirates’ rotation, and the only southpaw, climbs the mound for the ultimate game of the intra-division three-game set. Surprisingly, the injury-ridden Bedard has only missed one start this season after suffering back spasms on May 9th against the Washington Nationals. Bedard has been rocked for eight runs in his past two games after suffering the back spasms, raising his ERA from 2.57 on May 9th to 3.52 on May 21st. Oddly enough, Bedard has never thrown a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in his career, one of only five teams that he has never pitched against. Bedard performs fairly well at home as opposed to on the road, going 0-2, which is a horrible indicator of his performance, with an ERA of 3.15 and a WHIP of 1.35.
Andrew McCutchen has been tearing the league a new you-know-what over his past 15 games. In those 15 games, McCutchen has hit .400/.426/.764, yes, he has a slugging percentage of .764, with six home runs (of his seven season roundtrippers), and 16 RBI. Rod Barajas has been warm, but not hot, over his last ten games, hitting a triple-slash of .343/.351/.686 with three home runs. I would really like to say that other players have been hot lately, but there have only been two, which is pretty good — if you’re a Cubs fan.
The Pirates have a boatload of cold players, but I’m only going to name a few. Neil Walker has been ice-cold over his last ten games, hitting .205/.222/.341 and has cost the Pirates 1.33 wins. His on-base percentage has dipped from .331 to .299, and his slugging percentage from .679 to .631. Walker is not the only infielder who has been cold as of late, as Pedro Alvarez joined him in his descent from mediocrity. In his past ten starts, Alvarez has hit an appalling .189/.244/.270 slash line, going from the hottest Pirates player to the coldest.
Typically if I were writing this, the Pirates would be looking up at the Cubs in the standings. Sadly for Cubs fans (but great for myself, a long-suffering Pirate fan), the Cubs are sitting at the bottom of the NL Central and the Pirates are smack dab in the middle. I don’t expect the Cubs’ 9-game losing streak to end any time soon, and the Buccos have a good chance of sweeping the Cubs, as much as I am shocked to say it. As long as the pitching can hold up, the Pirates will win, but if the pitching fails there is no chance for the Pirates. The Cubs’ game plan should be to get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in, kind of like the small-ball that Clint Hurdle has instituted with the Pirates.
Thanks again to Alex for contributing to our blog and giving us an inside look at the Pirates