The first half was basically as magical as you could expect going into this season. The Pirates are just one game out of first place and they have their best post- All Star break record since 1992. The Pirates are 6-4 over their last ten, and have a realistic chance of seeing first place in the very near future as they start off against the hapless Houston Astros, who are currently 18.0 games behind the Pirates.
All of that said the Pirates really need to take advantage of not only this series but this season. I think any team that makes the playoffs has a realistic shot at winning it all. You never know when you are ready or not, and if this team is overachieving this year, they will have to overachieve next year with basically the same parts, it’s time to be bold and go out and get that Hunter Pence who helps not only now but into the future.
The Astros have been horrible over their last game, winning just one game (against the Pirates!). They are also pathetic at home this season, putting up a record of just 14-33. The Pirates on the other hand have dominated the Astros, taking seven of nine from them thus far. Last season the Pirates were just 4-11 so it’s pretty safe to say they have exercised those demons.
The Pirates actually will face all three pitchers they faced in the last series against the Stros’, just in a different order this time.
Brett Myers (30) RHP
It looks like Myers is going downhill, and could possibly have one of the worst seasons of his career. Almost all of his numbers are worse than his career average and his 4.88 ERA is the second worst of any season he has had.
As you can see his numbers this season are pretty much worse across the board compared to both his career numbers and his great (contract) season last year.
Myers seems to be trending downward right now as well, picking up the loss in three straight starts. His combined line over that span is:
His ERA over those games is a staggering 6.23. This span also includes his one start against the Pirates:
That’s a whole lot of hits! Hopefully the Bucs can get to him again, maybe even put a few out of the park as he has clearly struggled with the longball.
The home/road splits aren’t egregiously different but it’s clear that he is having a huge problem with homers at Minute Maid Park. He has given up well over half his homers there in nearly twenty less innings pitched. That’s why despite having a lower WHIP and BAA at home he has an OPS that is .100 higher than on the road.
Myers has been pretty solid lifetime against the Pirates, even though his record doesn’t really show it too much:
Bud Norris (26) RHP
Norris continues to have a fine season, his 3.46 ERA leads the rotation. He is another Astros pitcher having a career defining year, unlike Myers though his is a positive one, as he is improving on his career numbers::
The fact that he was able to improve his SO/BB without having a massive increase in his SO/9 bodes well for him as it means he isn’t walking as many guys. He still walks too many, but for an extreme strikeout type pitcher that is to be expected.
This will be Norris’ fourth game of the season against the Bucs so they should be starting to get used to each other at this point. His first outing was really good, though he got the loss.
His second outing was even better, and he was rewarded with yet another loss:
Norris had yet another stellar outing in the last series, this time finally picking up the win against the Bucs in what would be the Astros only win of the series:
So it’s safe to say Norris probably like how he pitches against the Pirates, just not the run support his team provides him. In fact in his two losses to the Bucs the Astros scored just one run in support of Norris, in his one win they scored eight!
Norris has been a big time home pitcher this season, bad news for a Pirates team that has struggled against him all season.
It seems to me Bud Norris is turning himself into a Pirate Killer. And why not? After all the Astros no longer have legendary Pirate Killer Mike Hampton, why not instantly replace him? While his career numbers aren’t at that level yet, if this season is any indication of his future performance he will give Pirates fans headaches for years to come.
Wandy Rodriguez (32) LHP
Wandy got beat up pretty good by the Marlins in his last outing:
That was his second straight loss heading into the break. His other loss? You guessed it against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wandy won his first outing against the Bucs:
He followed up that impressive outing against the Pirates with a pretty big failure in his next one against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
So which Wandy do they get this time? The Buccos have a homer off him in each game he has pitched, though both of them were at PNC.
Wandy has been a better pitcher at home though so he will have that going for him this time out.
W-rod (nope still don’t like it) has had a pretty good career against the Bucs nothing too special though even if it seems like he has been great against the Pirates:
|Player||vs. Myers||vs. Norris||vs. Rodriguez||vs. Astros|
Jeff Karstens (28) RHP
Who could argue with this move? Karstens has been the Bucs best starter since Ohlendorf went down and the decision to start him first after the break is a no brainer. Not only has he earned the honor, but other guys really seem to need a break. He and Maholm are the only two pitchers who haven’t seemed to be wearing down as of late so the rest for guys like Charlie Morton, and especially Kevin Correia (old man) should do good.
Karstens’ last outing was his third straight win and his seventh straight quality start. Think about that. This is a guy who was clearly not part of the FUTURE plans. A surprise who came out of nowhere and has really thrust this team into contention. Karstens was a guy that couldn’t go more than five innings and whose stuff is too fringey to be a successful starter. Well like this team he has blown away all the expectations.
Anyway the last time Karstens took the mound was against the Astros. Prior to his last really solid outing he faced the Astros just once this season, but the result was the same. A Jeff Karstens win:
He might not have #electricstuff but if his #handcrankstuff is this good I will light some candles for the man. That last outing before the break I alluded to was another Karstens- gem:
You had to know he’d give up that solo homer.
If you were looking for something that Karstens is bad at you might bring up his road performance, but you’d be wrong. While he isn’t a Terminator on the road he hasn’t been bad:
So there. The road numbers are still pretty damn good, just not as good.
Up until this season Karstens hasn’t been too great against the Astros. Due to his two very good performances thus far though his numbers have improved drastically:
Paul Maholm (29) LHP
And now on to Pirates stater 1B. Paul Maholm has had it rough thus far, getting little run support from his teammates but he has managed to keep his head above water. And by above water I mean “How the hell do you have a 6-9 record with that awesome 2.96 ERA, bro?”… This friends is why record is a pretty poor way to judge pitchers.
So what has Maholm been up to lately? Nice of you to ask. He has been busy dominating some NL Central opponents. On the fourth of July, the birthplace of a nation, Maholm made his most recent start against the Astros, he got the win in that game and pitched pretty durn solid:
His previous start against the Astros was even better, and one of his best of the season:
Maholm has been amazing at home, but has struggled a bit on the road. I wouldn’t call his road numbers terrible either, but they are markedly worse:
Maholm has actually been quite good against the Astros, but a lot of that probably has to do with the Astros being pretty crappy. Still Maholm has beaten the Astros more than any other team, so there must be something to it, right?
Kevin Correia (30)
K-Core really needed the rest in my opinion. He really hasn’t been the same pitcher he was earlier in the season. I have figured out what is going wrong with Correia too. First off he sucks at home, which everyone already knows. But what most people probably didn’t pick up on was the fact that I took it a bit easy on him last week.
And for good reason too as he notched his second quality start in three games. He also picked up his eleventh win of the season in this start against the Nats:
So I left him off the hook a bit in my last preview. Well no more because he crashed right back down to earth against the Cubs in the Pirates only loss of the series:
Pretty pathetic outing if I do say so myself.
I’m not sure how he managed to do it but he hasn’t faced the Astros yet this season. Maybe a game against the Lastros in Houston is just what the doctor ordered for him after a nice long break, with a bit of a vacation to Arizona in the middle.
This Correia kid has been good on the road, but MY GOD has he been terrible on the road.
Too bad the National League won the All Star game this year because that is really going to limit Correia’s pitching opportunities.
Like I mentioned earlier he hasn’t faced the Astros yet this season but he has seen him a few times throughout the course of his career: