By Jared Lankes
I’m getting really tired of saying it, but the Pirates had yet another rough series. They got swept in Chicago, with only 1 of the games being actually competitive. The Cubs just looked like a well-oiled machine, while the Pirates looked like a junker from the scrapyard. The Pirates fell to 33-36, a mark that not many could have imagined after they got to 32-26 just about two weeks ago. Their road doesn’t get any easier either, as the San Francisco Giants come into town. I guess the good news is they are at home and they play well against the Giants, for the most part.
Monday: Jeff Locke (5-5 5.92 ERA) vs Madison Bumgarner (8-2 1.91 ERA) 7:05 ET
This pitching matchup is a Giants fan dream, but a Pirates fan nightmare. A struggling Jeff Locke has given up 18 runs in less than 9 innings in his last 2 starts, putting his ERA all the way up at 5.92. He faces one of the best in the business, Madison Bumgarner, who actually faced Locke last year at PNC Park and even homered off of him. Bumgarner looked human that day, but Locke looked less than that. We can only hope Locke brings his best and Bumgarner falters.
Tuesday: TBA vs Johnny Cueto (10-1 2.10 ERA) 7:05 ET
With Juan Nicasio on the restricted list, it looks like Wilfredo Boscan will get this start. It hasn’t been announced, but it’s been strongly hinted at. At this point, Boscan may be a breath of fresh air. However, he will see another one of the best, Johnny Cueto. Cueto has dominated the Pirates at every turn besides a few outliers, like the 2013 WC game where he was coming straight off the DL. This looks to be another pitching matchup where the Pirates bags won’t be able to get back on track, but you never know. Maybe one of those few outlier games can come into play here.
Wednesday: Francisco Liriano (4-7 5.03 ERA) vs Jeff Samardzija (8-4 3.13) 7:05 ET
Okay, these pitchers the Pirates have faced lately is getting out of hand with how good they are, not just overall, but against the Pirates as well. Jeff Samardzija continues the chopping block. He had an average year last year, but is doing great this year and has always done great against the Pirates. For the Buccos, it’s Francisco Liriano, who hasn’t been bad his last two starts. Though, he hasn’t been great either. It’ll be important for him to get some of the big lefty bats the Giants have out, if they play obviously. Giants have some lefty bats that can hurt you. Liriano has to minimize that to have success.
Thursday: Jon Niese (6-4 4.74 ERA) vs Albert Suarez (2-1 3.69 ERA) 12:35 ET
If any of the pitching matchups are at lead sort of favorable in this series, it’s this one. Albert Suarez doesn’t have too much experience under his belt, but he’s been good in his little time. This is the best opportunity for the Bucco bats to break out possibly. Jon Niese goes for the Pirates. He’s given up alarming home run numbers for a “ground ball” pitcher. The Giants like to hit homers, so for Niese, he has to keep the ball down and keep it in the ballpark. That is how he can keep the Giants at bay (no pun intended).
Most would be happy with a series split in most 4-game series’, but especially this one considering the pitching matchups. A series split would probably even give this team a huge boost that they so desperately need right now. A series loss or sweep would put this team in serious panic mode as well as a hole that would be very difficult to dig out of. This may even be a more important series for this team going forward as that Cubs series that just concluded.