Series Preview: Pirates @ Braves

Pirates vs Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates (84-71)

@

Atlanta Braves (76-79)

Monday, September 22nd – 7:10 pm
Tuesday, September 23rd – 7:10 pm
Wednesday, September 24th – 7:10 pm
Thursday, September 25th – 7:10 pm

Turner Field – Atlanta, GA

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At the beginning of September, the Pirates and Braves had nearly identical playoff odds. We thought this would be a huge series…

wild card race

The Pirates are 13-6 in September and on the verge of a postseason berth, while the Braves are 4-14 and have been officially eliminated from contention. While there are still implications for the Pirates, the Braves’ season is over.

The Bucs look to finish strong with seven games remaining in the regular season.

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Probable Pitchers

Monday – Francisco Liriano vs. Aaron Harang

Tuesday – Gerrit Cole vs. Alex Wood

Wednesday – Jeff Locke vs. Julio Teheran

Thursday – Edinson Volquez vs. TBD

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News, Notes, Storylines

– The Pirates magic number is down to 3. That is, any combination of Pirates’ wins and Brewers’ losses that equals three will get the Bucs in the postseason.

– The Buccos are tied with the Giants in the Wild Card. If they remain tied or the Pirates take the lead, the WC game would be played at PNC Park next Wednesday. (The Pirates have the tiebreaker over SF, as they won 4 of 6 games against them this year.) The Giants play the Dodgers on the road the next three days, then face the Padres at home for four games this weekend. They’ll have to line up against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Andrew Cashner, etc. this week… We’ll see what happens.

– The Pirates are also 2.5 out of first place in the Central… Not likely, but still within reach. The Cardinals play the Cubs at Wrigley the next three days.

– One day after being mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, the Braves have fired their general manager, Frank Wren.

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Opponent Blogs

Talking Chop | Tomahawk Take

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”The Braves’ future isn’t dim, and there are ways to work around the mistakes of Wren, but the man himself could never quite figure out how to do it effectively. That task now falls to his successor.” – SB Nation[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Francisco Liriano. His Pirate career is likely winding down, and he’s been absolutely dominant as of late. Liriano’s surrendered just one run over his last 22 innings; since the All-Star break, 18 earned in 75 innings = 2.16 ERA. He’s allowed two runs or less in all but one of his second half starts. Dating back to May 30th (through some missed time due to injury), he has a 2.43 ERA in 16 games. After an up-and-down career, Liriano has pieced together two solid years in a row here in Pittsburgh. He’ll get the ball on Monday night.

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Prediction Time

Pirates win three of four and pop champagne at Turner Field.

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates vs. Braves

Pirates vs Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates (64-60)

vs.

Atlanta Braves (64-60)

Monday, August 18th – 7:05 pm
Tuesday, August 19th – 7:05 pm
Wednesday, August 20th – 7:05 pm

PNC Park – Pittsburgh, PA

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For mid-August, this series could be as important as it gets. The Pirates and Braves face off in the exact same position: 64-60 record, 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot in the National League. Having lost their last five games, it’s time for the Pirates to put up or shut up.

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Probable Pitchers

Monday – Vance Worley vs. Ervin Santana

Tuesday – Francisco Liriano vs. Aaron Harang

Wednesday – Gerrit Cole vs. Alex Wood

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News, Notes, Storylines

– The Bucs return to PNC Park, where they are 39-24 this year … Home sweet home.

– The Braves — like the Pirates — have been much worse on the road in 2014; they’re 27-32 away from Turner Field.

– We could see Andrew McCutchen again this week… He’s eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday at the earliest, so we’ll see…

Matt Hague, designated for assignment a few days ago to make room on the 40-man for John Axford, has been claimed by Toronto.

– A nice tribute to the Great One, Roberto Clemente, whose 80th birthday would have been today…

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Opponent Blogs

Talking Chop | Tomahawk Take

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”Atlanta’s last road trip was wiped from memory sucked, and the Pirates could prove to be a strict test, having the most home wins (39) of any NL team.” – Talking Chop[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Gerrit Cole. The Bucs’ young right-hander returns from the DL on Wednesday night to make his first start since July 4th. He took his recovery a bit slower this time around, including four rehab starts with Indianapolis. His last two outings went swell, as he pitched shutouts of 6 and 7 innings, respectively. Pirate pitching needs a boost. Cole’s been pretty average this year, so it’d be huge if he could take a step forward for the stretch run.

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Prediction Time

A good series could get things back on track, but it’s hard to have confidence in this team after watching the last five games. Braves take two of three.

Go Bucs

Game #59: Braves 5, Pirates 4…Game #60: Braves 5, Pirates 0

Rough couple of games on Tuesday and Wednesday as the Bravos completed the sweep of the Bucs.

On Tuesday, Jeff Locke took the hill and was tasked with stopping the bleeding and at this point, he’s probably the best stopper in the rotation.  He squared off against left-hander Mike Minor, who the Bucs hit well.  Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez each took him deep (Pedro went oppo), with a Cutch two-run double sandwiched in between.  Through five innings, Locke had given up two runs on five hits and struck out seven.  But in the sixth, his high pitch count forced him from the game after allowing a two-out single.  Ryan Reid, appearing in his second major league game, took over and gave up a game-tying home run on the fourth pitch he threw to B.J. Upton, knotting the game up at 4-4.

Reid stayed in the game for the seventh and allowed a leadoff single.  After a bunt and groundout, the runner advanced to third as Freddie Freeman came up.  Reid was pulled in favor of left-handed Tony Watson, who got a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning.  T-Wats then remained in for the eighth and walked the bases loaded, but pulled a Houdini and worked out of the jam with the game still tied.

Each team turned to their closers in the ninth, and both Craig Kimbrel and Jason Grilli gave up a hit and a walk before sending the game to extra innings.  With the game in extras, Anthony Varvaro entered for the tenth as talks of the infamous 19-inning game in 2011 came up.  Varvaro pitched a 1-2-3 inning, and the Braves made sure the game wouldn’t last six hours as they walked off against Mark Melancon in the bottom of the tenth.

Pirates (35-24) – Braves (36-22)

Win: Varvaro (3-0)
Loss: Melancon (1-1)

BOX SCORE

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Wednesday’s matinee got off to a bad start for the Bucs and didn’t get much better.  Wandy Rodriguez made the start and couldn’t make it through the first inning before leaving the game with an injured forearm.  Bryan Morris entered with the game already 1-0 Braves, and came through with 3.2 innings of scoreless relief.  Vin Mazzaro and Jared Hughes, however, didn’t do so well in their long-relief appearances.  Each gave up two runs bringing the deficit to 5-0 Atlanta.  Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird both contributed to the lead with solo home runs apiece.

Meanwhile, Julio Tehran had allowed just two baserunners (both on walks) through seven innings.  He retired the first two batters of the eighth, which brought up the pitcher’s spot.  Brandon Inge entered as a pinch-hitter, and promptly ended Tehran’s bid for a no-hitter with a single into LF.  The Colombian gave up just one hit in eight innings of work against the Bucs, striking out eleven.  David Carpenter completed the shutout victory with a 1-2-3 ninth, finishing off the sweep.

Undoubtedly, this was a rough series, but if you remember back to last season, the Bucs lost four in a row in early June after getting swept by the Orioles and losing the first game of the series to the Indians.  But as the weather heated up, the Pirates broke out the sticks and went on a rampage in late June and all of July.  The entire summer is in front of us and there’s plenty of time for the Bucs to chase down the Cardinals and Reds.  Maybe a series at Wrigley against the lowly Cubs will be what gets the offense going.

Pirates (35-25) – Braves (37-22)

Win: Tehran (4-2)
Loss: Rodriguez (6-4)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates @ Braves

preview ATL

Pittsburgh Pirates (35-22) vs. Atlanta Braves (34-22)

June 3, 2013 – 7:10 pm
June 4, 2013 – 7:10 pm
June 5, 2013 – 12:10 pm

Turner Field – Atlanta, GA

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Resources: Pirates Depth Chart | Bullpen Workload | Statistics

After short homestand, the Pirates hit the road this week. They’ll meet the Atlanta Braves first, who they three of four from back in April. This time, they’ll square off a Turner Field, a stadium that has not been kind to the Bucs in the past.

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Probable Starters:

Game 1 – A.J. Burnett (3-5, 2.72) vs. Kris Medlen (1-6, 3.48)

Game 2 – Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.25) vs. Mike Minor (7-2, 2.48)

Game 3 – Wandy Rodriguez (6-3, 3.47) vs. Julio Teheran (3-2, 3.71)

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Batting Leaders (Among Qualifiers):

Pirates

Braves

AVG

Starling Marte (.287)

Freddie Freeman (.314)

HR

Pedro Alvarez (11)

Justin Upton (14)

RBI

Alvarez (30)

Freeman (36)

SB

Marte (15)

Jordan Schafer (7)

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Pitching Leaders (Among Qualifiers):

Pirates

Braves

Wins

Wandy Rodriguez (6)

Maholm, Minor (7)

SO

A.J. Burnett (89)

Minor (66)

ERA

Jeff Locke (2.25)

Minor (2.48)

Saves

Jason Grilli (22)

Craig Kimbrel (17)

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Opponent Blogs: Talking Chop, Tomahawk Take

Upton Here Upton Here Meme

Players to Watch: The Upton brothers, who have been struggling at the plate. B.J. has been awful all season, hitting just .156/.237/.269, and could be on the verge of demotion. Justin was off to one of the hottest starts in MLB, but saw his batting average drop .045 points in May while hitting just 2 home runs.

Go Bucs

Bucs take down Braves yet again

The Buccos finished off a 9-game homestand (shortened by one game with the rainout last Tuesday) with a huge series win over the Bravos on Sunday.  Most of the credit for today’s win goes to the bullpen, which seems to be a recurring theme early in the season.  Travis Snider and Russell Martin continued to swing hot bats, and an unlikely hero came through with a couple of clutch RBIs.

Jonathan Sanchez made the start today and was, well, Jonathan Sanchez.  He allowed four straight singles in the 2nd inning as the Braves went up 2-0 early.  He threw just 3 innings and gave up the 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks.  He did strike out 5 batters, but needed a TON of pitches to do so.  74 pitches, including 33 balls, calls for an early exit from the ballgame.

The offense struck for 2 quick runs in the bottom of the 2nd to tie the game back up against Kris Medlen.  Pedro singled to start the inning and came home on Russell Martin’s double to CF.  Clint Barmes knotted the score with a line single to right, and then gave the Pirates the lead later with an RBI-single in the 6th.  By that time, Jeanmar Gomez had pitched 2.1 innings of long relief and Justin Wilson came in for 1.1.  One more insurance run came home in the 7th on a wild pitch with Alvarez at the plate, and the back end of the bullpen took over from there.

Jared Hughes and Tony Watson helped get the ball into Jason Grilli‘s hands.  He walked the first batters after a drawn-out AB, but came right back and struck out the next two.  Justin Upton came up as the potential tying run, but Grilli got him to fly out to deep right-center for the save and series-win.

Very satisfying win and homestand.  Getting runs against Medlen is no small task, and the bullpen did a great job of making what run support they had count.  The main issue now becomes that the bullpen is gassed after getting a ton of work this homestand, with no off day until the 2nd of May.  The starters in this upcoming four-game series in Philadelphia will need to eat up 7 or 8 innings a game, or else guys like Mazzaro will be throwing multiple innings every day.

Pirates (10-8) – Braves (13-5)

Win: Wilson (1-0)
Loss: Medlen (1-2)
Save: Grilli (7)

BOX SCORE

carlton-banks

Go Bucs