Totally biased Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates series preview
By Mike Lacy
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve had some fun lately. The Phillies have won some games, Ben Revere hit a home run, and the past few weeks have generally been not so depressing.
But the good times are over. When they faced the Mets a week or so ago, I warned you that the Phillies were going to play poorly. I was correct, and they lost two of the three games in that series.
Since then, the Phillies have won four out of six games against two contending teams. Seems like things are back on track, right?
Unfortunately, the schedule once again brings them an opponent that often brings out the worst in them: The Pittsburgh Pirates. Even when the Pirates weren’t very good (Which is pretty much every year from 1993 to 2012), the Phillies had trouble against them. Now that the Pirates are good and the Phillies are not, that trend has not yet reversed itself.
The last time they met
A.J. Burnett. Image Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Phillies visited Pittsburgh over Fourth of July weekend and lost all three games. The Pirates had no trouble scoring runs against the Phillies starting trio of Roberto Hernandez, David Buchanan, and A.J. Burnett.
Meanwhile, the Phillies were at least consistent, scoring exactly two runs in each of the losses. (Note: Two runs isn’t enough to win most games)
What’s new with the Pirates?
The Pirates are fighting for a playoff spot. If the season ended today, they would be the second Wild Card team, but they hold only a half game lead over the Braves and Brewers.
The Pirates have been streaky of late. They recently had a four-game winning streak, immediately followed by a four-game losing streak. And they followed that up with a three-game sweep over the Cubs.
Does this mean that they’re due for another losing streak?
Russell Martin: A Pirates star…for now
Russell Martin. Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Pirates signed former Yankees catcher Russell Martin before the 2013 season, and it has proven to be one of the best free agent signings in team history. His .411 on-base percentage leads the team, and he’s provided strong defense behind the plate.
The bad news for the Pirates is that he’ll be a free agent again after the season, and he likely will be much more expensive than he was two years ago. History has shown that once a player becomes too expensive, that player soon becomes an ex-Pirate.
Pirates starting pitching preview
In his second full season, Locke has been a dependable option in the middle of the Pirates rotation.
He’s been quite successful against the Phillies thus far in his young career. In three career starts against them, he’s 3-0 with a 1.34 ERA.
Edinson Volquez. Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Coming off of a poor 2013 season, Volquez wasn’t highly pursued in the offseason. The Pirates signed him to a one-year deal, and it’s been one of the best signings in baseball. (Are the Pirates getting lucky with these “buy low” guys, or are they seeing something that other teams aren’t?)
When he faced the Phillies earlier this season, he pitched seven innings and only surrendered one run.
The “Vanimal” makes his return to Philadelphia!
After the Phillies traded him to Minnesota, Worley fell apart, and was basically given away. But since arriving in Pittsburgh, he seems to have re-discovered whatever it was that made him such a revelation in 2011.
Much like he did in Philadelphia, Worley is able to get an unusually high number of called third strikes. Considering their familiarity with him, will the Phillies be ready for that?
Francisco Liriano. Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Liriano hasn’t pitched quite as well as he did in 2013 when he finished in the top ten of National League Cy Young Award voting. But his 4-10 record is also not very indicative of the season he’s having either.
His ERA is a respectable 3.74, and he still strikes out a ton of batters. He’s also coming into the game hot, having allowed only two earned runs over his last three starts.
Reason for optimism
The Phillies have been playing well against quality opponents lately. Maybe they enjoy the role of spoiler?
Reason for pessimism
As mentioned, even good Phillies teams have had troubles against the Pirates over the years. And I wouldn’t call this year’s Phillies team “good.”
The Phillies will find a way to pull out one of the games, probably thanks to another good performance by the back of their bullpen.
But the other three games? Those will belong to the Pirates.