The Pirates arrive in Colorado riding high off of their win in the weirdest MLB game of the year so far. (Seriously, look at that box score. A pitcher pinch hit for another pitcher and worked a 9 pitch at-bat and hit an RBI single in the 13th inning to another pitcher playing left field, who had pinch ran for another pitcher who pinch hit for another pitcher in the 12th inning. What the hell?) They’ve split their 6 games of the west coast road trip so far, which is generally good in terms of long road trips, but not great considering that those losses to the Padres still sting a little.
The offense is rolling right now. These are the hit totals from the road trip so far: 11, 8, 11, 13, 4, and 20. That’s awesome, not to mention all the other ways these guys are getting on base. Watching the team bat this year just feels like something completely different than what we’ve been watching for the past couple years. Most innings used to feel lost, or the Pirates would give up two quick outs and I’d already be looking toward the inning afterward. This year is completely different; guys are getting on base early and often and the Pirates are stringing together hits in a way that could not be said of past recent iterations of this squad.
Rather than just hoping that the Pirates can scrape enough runs across the plate to support their strong pitching, the offense is booming and putting continuous pressure on the opposing team’s pitchers and defense. The flip side of the coin is that the Pirates pitching hasn’t been good enough to always take advantage of all the runs they’re scoring; yesterday’s game was a prime example of this with multiple collapses when the game could have easily been in hand.
Heading into the Rockies series, I would expect that the offense will continue to roll, because why the hell wouldn’t they? Not to mention that they’re playing in a park conducive to turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples. The big issue will continue to be the pitching. A fatigued bullpen likely won’t benefit from Jeff Locke starting today given his recent troubles. It seems likely that this is going to be his last chance to remain in the rotation, because the Pirates can’t afford to have someone walk 6 guys and only make it through 4 innings every fifth trip through the rotation. They have a viable replacement, too, in Ryan Vogelsong; it’s unfortunate for Locke that this test start comes in the low-density air in Colorado, but he needs to get it together at some point to keep his rotation spot and there’s no time like the present.
After Locke, the starters in this series are Cole, Niese, and Nicasio, which seems solid enough to finish the series off and hopefully get the Pirates a series win. The Rockies are in rebuilding mode (if you want to call it rebuilding instead of just straight sucking) and have some subpar starters on the mound, so hopefully the offense can carry the team right through Colorado and they make it back to Pittsburgh a few games above .500.
Lastly, the Pirates are sitting Andrew McCutchen today, which means that every one of the Pirates’ position players in the lineup today is hitting over .300. It’s good that bum McCutchen isn’t there to bring them down. I’m completely kidding, obviously, but Cutch clearly isn’t right; yesterday he missed on a few low-90s fastballs down the middle of the plate that vintage Andrew McCutchen would punish. Having a day off should help him out, and the offense is going to be fine without him in the lineup for a single day.
First pitch is in about an hour, at 8:40pm EDT. Jeff Locke can hopefully rebound to the good Jeff Locke that shows up once in a while, at least for one start.