By Jared Lankes
The Pirates enjoyed home cooking over the last 11 days, going 8-2 on a 10-game home stand. They took 3 of 4 from Atlanta, 2 of 3 from Colorado, and swept Arizona. Pirates played really well, but now it’s time to see if they are good at taking this act back out on the road. They begin this road trip in Texas as they face a Rangers team that has also been playing very well. So there’s no rest for the weary here.
Friday: Cole Hamels (5-0 2.83 ERA) vs Jon Niese (4-2 4.75) 8:05 PM ET
Two lefties will take the hill in this game as Cole Hamels, acquired last July in a big trade with Philadelphia, looks to continue his outstanding pitching. He opposes Jon Niese, who has pitched better than the numbers show. The big question going into this game is whether or not Gregory Polanco will continue to mash lefties at the rate he has. He’s one of the best left-handed hitters hitting against left-handed pitching this season. He had a scorching homestand and hit off of just about everyone he faced. He will have a big test against one of the league’s best lefties.
Saturday: Yu Darvish (0-0 0.00 ERA) vs Juan Nicasio (4-3 4.46 ERA) 7:15 ET (Fox)
The big news coming into this game is the return of Yu Darvish to the Rangers rotation. He will pitch on Saturday as he hits a major league mound for the first time in nearly two years. Nobody knows what to expect from him in his comeback. Will he look like the Darvish of old or will he be just average? We will find out on Saturday night. He opposes Juan Nicasio, who has been very inconsistent this whole season. The Rangers lineup has little holes in it, even with Roughned Odor being suspended. The one guy to watch out for is the hot-hitting stud Nomar Mazara.
Sunday: Martin Perez (2-4 3.13 ERA) vs Francisco Liriano (4-3 4.30 ERA) 3:05 ET
Just like Friday, this will be a battle of two left-handed pitchers. Martin Perez has pitched well despite his 2-4 record, and Liriano has pitched better than his ERA suggests. So don’t be shocked if this one ends up being a pitcher’s duel even if it doesn’t look like it on paper. This will end up being another great test for Polanco.