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Weekend MLB Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates Vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Friday’s Pitchers: J.A Happ (7-7, 4.10 ERA) vs. Carlos Martinez (13-6, 2.91 ERA)
Happ has done considerably well filling in for the injured A.J Burnett. Acquired around the trade deadline, Happ has posted a 3-1 record with an ERA of 1.98 over 5 starts. Happ is unlikely keep a spot in the starting rotation once Burnett is back from injury, but if he can keep pitching like he has over the past month he will likely garner a spot in the bullpen of a playoff bound team.
Martinez has been a stud in 2015 mowing down batters to the tune of 9.1 strikeouts per 9 innings and posting a respectable WHIP of 1.25. His past four starts have been subpar going 2-2 with an ERA of 4.62. Comparable to his last four starts has been his season against the Pirates. Martinez is 2-1 with an ERA of 4.35 and 23 strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched. His first outing against the Pirates he was roughed up for 7 runs over 5.1 innings, but he has settled down over his past two starts – both victories – and pitched much better.
Saturday’s Probable Pitchers: Charlie Morton (8-6, 4.22 ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (7-4, 2.03 ERA)
Morton has been a constant on the Pirates for over 6 seasons now and has plenty of experience pitching against the Cardinals. But Experience is not synonym for success. Over 16 starts, Morton has compiled a 2-10 record, averaged under 6 strikeouts per 9 innings and barely can get to 5 innings per start. Morton has not pitched against the Cardinals in 2015 yet, but if history is any indicator it is unlikely this is going to be his best start of the year.
After spending 2012-2014 dealing with injuries and finding his playing time in St. Louis decline, Garcia has made a triumph return and surpassed anything he has done before. He may not get many strikeouts - only at a rate of 6.2 strikeouts per 9 innings - but he compensates with excellent command. With a WHIP of 0.97 and only 4 home runs given up over 93 innings pitched, Garcia has superb control and has rightfully earned his place back in the starting rotation.
Sunday’s Probable Pitchers: Gerrit Cole (15-8, 2.64 ERA) vs. John Lackey (11-8, 2.87 ERA)
Cole has been the best pitcher on the Pirates staff this season and a deserving All-Star. Cole ranks in the top-10 in the National League in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched, a true testament to his evolution to Pittsburgh’s ace in 2015. Cole is 2-3 against the Cardinals in his career – in 6 starts – but has yet to win against the Cards on the road, with a 0-3 mark and 4.34 ERA.
Lackey joined the Cards at the trade deadline in 2014 and, for lack of a better word, floundered in his 10 starts. Now 2014 is a distant memory and Lackey is having his best season since 2007. Lackey has been successful against the Pirates in two starts this season, yielding just 2 runs over 12.1 innings pitched.
Something to Watch
The team batting stats for the Pirates and Cards are so close to each other it is scary. They hold the same team OPS at .718, are separated by one team double and two team home runs and .03 points in batting average. The biggest difference in the lineups is outfielder Andrew McCutchen. The Cardinals pitching matchup outshines the Pirates in both the Friday and Saturday game – with Sunday slightly in Pitts favour – therefore it will be critical for the 2013 NL MVP to be playing at the top of his game this weekend for Pitsburgh to win the series and gain some ground in the NL Central race. McCutchen sat out Thursday night's game due to tightness in his Achilles but he is reigning NL Player of the Month, so this is likely a precautionary measure over anything too serious.
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