By Jared Lankes
The Pirates were able to split with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field behind great pitching and the bats jumping on Wade Miley early and often. They continue this west coast trip into Oakland to face the Athletics, or A’s for short. I wouldn’t say it’s a chance for the Pirates to breath, but it’s definitely an easier opponent than the Pirates have been getting recently, and throughout all of June. Weird that they turn the calendar and suddenly the schedule becomes easier.
Friday: Sonny Gray (3-6 5.03 ERA) vs Jeff Locke (7-5 5.12 ERA) 10:05 ET
Looking at it, these are two pitchers that don’t look good in terms of numbers. However, these are two pitchers who have been better lately. Jeff Locke has enjoyed 2 of his better outings of his career in a row while Sonny Gray is trying to resurge into his former self. Despite Gray’s struggles, the Pirates bats still must be weary of what he can do. He’s still capable of being one of the best in the game. Let’s see if the Pirates can hit him while he’s down.
Saturday: Rich Hill (8-3 2.25 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-0 5.40 ERA) 10:05 ET
Rich Hill has been one of the best stories in all of baseball this year, and for good reason. He owns one of the best ERAs in baseball while not even being in baseball for quite a while until last year. He may be one of baseball’s most coveted trade prizes this month, but for right now he’s still in Oakland. This means the Pirates will have to try to figure out the veteran lefty. As for the Pirates, Chad Kuhl doesn’t avoid easier competition. He is coming off beating the best lefty, and the best pitcher, in all of baseball on Sunday, Clayton Kershaw. He’s thrown right into the fire again here. If he wants to beat Hill, he will need to pitch a little bit better than he did on Sunday. In any case, it could be an up “Hill” climb for the Pirates.
Sunday: Daniel Mengden (1-3 2.81 ERA) vs Francisco Liriano (4-8 5.33 ERA) 4:05 ET
If you know nothing about Daniel Mengden, you aren’t alone. He’s one of many A’s starters in recent years that people typically forget about. It’s hard to forget about him once you see his glorious mustache though. It makes me think we are playing baseball from decades ago. Move over, John Axford. You have just been beat. But in all honesty, Mengden has actually been pretty good for the A’s. For the Pirates, it’s Francisco Liriano again. He coughed up a 4-0 lead on Monday against the Dodgers, furthering his struggles. Pirates certainly need better from Liriano or else this rotation might not go anywhere.
This is a series where the Pirates need to pounce on a lesser team. They haven’t seen a lesser team in awhile. Pirates have been playing better these last couple of series’ and that needs to continue. Pirates need to win this series. Though, it won’t be easy with these pitching matchups.