By Jared Lankes
The Pirates have to be feeling great right now. They went 5-1 on a tough west coast trip in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s not an easy task, but the Pirates did it and looked good while doing it. Now, they face a crucial series against the Marlins who have been struggling. Of course, the Marlins and Pirates are two of the teams battling for the wildcard and up until this week, the Marlins had been ahead of the Pirates in the standings. Right now, the Pirates are ahead of the Marlins by 1.5 games. Despite that, this series is one of the more vital ones the Pirates will have the rest of the year. That cannot be underscored.
Friday: Gerrit Cole (7-8 3.25 ERA) vs Tom Koehler (9-8 3.86 ERA) 7:05 ET
This is a really “Cole” pitching matchup. In fact, it’s even “Koehler” than that. Okay, just needed to get that out of my system. Anyway, Cole really needs to start stepping up more to get this team to the next level. He’s been good but inconsistent all year. He has to kick it into the gear he found next year. This game against the Marlins is a good time to start. For the Marlins, Tom Koehler has been looking much better lately. He’s been a big reason this Marlins pitching rotation has been able to stay afloat despite many problems. The Pirates bats will need to bring their best to get to him.
Saturday: Chad Kuhl (3-0 3.73 ERA) vs David Phelps (6-6 2.48 ERA) 7:05 ET
Wow, this weekend has a really “Kuhl” feel to it. Okay, now I’m done. Now, the Pirates have not lost when Chad Kuhl has started, and a lot of that can be contributed to how well Kuhl has been pitching. The Pirates are hoping that the streak for him continues. For the Marlins, it’s David Phelps. Phelps had been working out of the bullpen but was pushed to rotation because of inconsistencies and injuries. He was great out of the bullpen. While Phelps has never been great as as a starter, he is capable of being steady. I think it’s possible that the Pirates can get to him, but it won’t be an easy task.
Sunday: Ryan Vogelsong (2-2 3.20 ERA) vs Jose Urena (1-4 6.80 ERA) 1:35 ET
Ryan Vogelsong’s last start in San Francisco didn’t go great, but it wasn’t bad either. Vogelsong has still been a pleasant surprise since returning from injury just a couple of weeks ago. He gets yet another start in a big situation, which he’s done many times in his career. I have no doubts he will keep his cool and do what he can to give the Pirates a chance to win. For the Marlins, it’s Jose Urena. Urena has not been good and there’s no way around it. Since arriving in the majors, he’s not been good outside of a couple flashes. He consistently has been roughed up. Hopefully, the Pirates are just another team that does that to him. Pirates can’t afford to lay eggs against pitchers like this.
As I said before, this is a crucial series for both team as it relates to the wildcard race. The Pirates have a chance to build up an even bigger lead on the Marlins while the Marlins can establish themselves above the Pirates again. In September if the race between the two is close, these games will be looked back on. The Pirates normally play better at home and are playing well right now. Baseball is a funny game, but all momentum seems to be going the Pirates way right now.