The Pirates certainly looked like they had dug themselves a hole way too deep a few weeks ago. Heading into their game on June 10, the Pirates were 26-35 and had less than a 4% shot at the playoffs per FanGraphs. But then they won a bunch of games and improved their playoff odds to...well...they still aren’t very good. In any event, Pittsburgh has been playing better as they come to St. Louis for this series. The Cardinals should destroy the Pirates.*
*W% with title is 538, W% without title is .448
Andrew McCutchen used to be great. Then he was just okay. Then he was terrible. Now, he’s back to being pretty good. For the season, McCutchen is hitting a solid .270/.348/.494 for a 121 wRC+. That’s pretty amazing considering that on May 27, his wRC+ was 67. Over his last 99 plate appearances, he’s hitting .410/.495/.783 for a 228 wRC+. So watch out for him this weekend.
Elsewhere on the diamond, Josh Harrison is still BABIPing his way to a solid season. Cardinals legend David Freese is hitting at an above average clip. Perhaps more surprising, so is Jordy Mercer. Adam Frazier has done well filling in while Starling Marte is off on suspension and Josh Bell is doing pretty well, but nothing great considering he’s a first baseman. Gregory Polanco looked like he was putting things together in May, but hasn’t hit at all this month.
Francisco Cervelli has been unfortunately sidelined with concussion problems this season and just went back on the disabled list due to more issues. Chris Stewart and Elias Diaz are likely to fill in. John Jaso still provides a decent lefty bat off the bench. In bullpen news, Tony Watson’s struggles got him removed from the closer role and Felipe Rivero, who has struck out 29% of batters against just 6% walks this year, has taken the job.
Tonight, Jameson Taillon will take the mound for Pittsburgh. Taillon is coming off of surgery for testicular cancer and has pitched pretty well. He pitched five shutout innings against Colorado, striking out five against two walks, but gave up four runs in five innings against the Cubs in his last start though he struck out four with just one walk and no homers. His velocity was completely back in those two games, firing his fastball regularly at 96 mph. He uses his twoseamer most of the time and generates a lot of ground balls, but also throws a fourseamer in addition to a very good curve and a so-so change. Adam Wainwright will pitch for the Cardinals.
On Saturday, Gerrit Cole gets the call for the Pirates. The 26-year-old righty has struggled to get back to the ace he was in 2015. Last year, he had some injuries but pitched pretty well when he got the ball. This year, he’s been below average, getting stung by the homer. He still throws hard but he’s given up 16 homers this season in 15 starts after giving up 18 in 2015 and 2016 combined over 53 starts. Lance Lynn goes for St. Louis.
On Sunday night, Chad Kuhl will pitch for the Pirates. Kuhl hasn’t been great this year, but he hasn’t deserved his 5.46 ERA, either. His FIP is an okay 4.30 and he’s been burned by bad luck on balls in play as well as unlucky sequencing. He’s a sinker-slider pitcher but doesn’t generate a great number of ground balls. He walks too many hitters and hasn’t gotten an out in the sixth inning since the third start of the year. Mike Leake pitches for the Cardinals.
Tonight, June 23, 7:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Saturday, June 24, 6:15 pm CT, FOX
Sunday, June 25, 7:05 pm CT, ESPN