By Jared Lankes
The Pirates have to be feeling much better now than they did just ten days ago. They have now won seven of their last nine after being able to sweep the Oakland Athletics in the Coliseum to get back to .500 at 41-41. However, this week is very crucial for the Pirates as they face 2 division foes they are chasing, the Cardinals and the Cubs. It starts in St. Louis with the Cardinals for 4 games.
Monday: Carlos Martinez (7-5 2.83 ERA) vs Jon Niese (6-6 5.07 ERA) 2:15 ET
Carlos Martinez has been dazzling lately. Their young righty is finally coming into his own. Also, he is no stranger to the Pirates, as he has done great against them throughout his career. The Pirates may have troubles again. Opposing him is Jon Niese. Niese, of course acquired this offseason for Neil Walker, has been disappointing to say the least. Pirates hope that this is the beginning of a turnaround for him. The Cardinals may just be the soft landing he needs, as they employ a ton of lefty hitters and typically don’t hit well against southpaws.
Tuesday: Mike Leake (5-6 4.13 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (2-1 3.86 ERA) 8:09 ET
Mike Leake has really started to turn a corner for the Cardinals after a shaky start. Leake is another familiar pitcher that the Pirates have seen so often throughout the years. And like Martinez, he has overall done a great job against the Pirates. Jameson Taillon opposes him. The rookie right-hander has had a few good starts and a few bad ones, which is to be expected. He pitched well against the Mariners his last time out. We’ll see if Taillon can build on that performance.
Wednesday: Jaime Garcia (6-6 3.84 ERA) vs Jeff Locke (8-5 5.13 ERA) 8:15 ET
Jaime Garcia is often forget about in the Cardinals rotation. However, he has been one of their better ones. Jaime Garcia, putting together a nice stretch of being relatively healthy, has been very good. Pirates offense doesn’t get any breaks with this guy. For the Pirates, it’s Jeff Locke. Locke has been a total hit or miss for the Pirates this year. He’s fought his way through all kinds of inconsistencies this season to put together a season that we can put up with at least. It’s just a matter of which Jeff Locke we will see. The good version can beat Madison Bumgarner and Kenta Maeda, as we’ve seen. The bad version loses to guys like Jorge De La Rosa, which we have also seen. It’s important for Locke to command his pitches on the corners. If he does that and is working in a groove, he’s getting quick outs with many groundouts. When he’s bad, he’s working slower, walking many guys, and is getting hit hard. Whichever version of him we get will be important to the outcome.
Thursday: Adam Wainwright (7-5 4.70 ERA) vs TBD
Adam Wainwright has experienced a renaissance this year……….. with his bat. In terms of pitching, well that’s another story. He’s had major inconsistencies with nearly all his pitches. He doesn’t look like the Wainwright of old, and I’m sure many around the league, including the Pirates are glad to see that. For the Pirates, it’ll likely be Chad Kuhl to start. While Kuhl hasn’t looked over the top incredible, he’s gotten the job done his first two starts, beating Clayton Kershaw and matching Rich Hill. Despite Wainwright not being the same version of him, it’s still tough competition for a rookie. We will see if the Pirates can take advantage of a lesser version of Wainwright. That would help out Kuhl a whole lot.
This series will be important for the Pirates. They have to find a way to grab at least a split. One thing is for sure in this series though. It is that it should be a fun four games, as these two always play each other very competitively.