After dropping the last two game against a Wild Card battling rival, Miami will finish it’s third game of the Pirates series in PNC Park today at 1:35. The Pirates (62-58) are officially a half game behind the Marlins (64-59) now in the Wild Card standings. A win today could make them third in the standings behind only the Dodgers and Cardinals.
Today, like many times, I could give you all the reasons why the Pirates should win this game. They should win this game because the Marlins have a pitcher named Jose Urena pitching who has a 6.80 ERA on the season and a career 5.88 ERA in 104 innings.
I could tell you that the Pirates really should win because the Marlins have lost their major star in Giancarlo Stanton and will have 42 year old powerless Ichiro Suzuki batting 6th in their lineup today. The loss of Stanton has removed 25 home runs and 70 RBI’s from the middle of the Marlins order with an OPS+ of 121. On top of the Stanton loss, the Marlins are also without Justin Bour who also provides solid pop with his 15 home runs and 133 OPS+.
I could mention that the Pirates really should win today’s game because if it does come down to the 9th inning, A.J. Ramos will regain the closer role and is coming fresh off of the Disabled List. Regardless if this is his first game back, he had struggled mightily this season with command and has allowed 26 walks in 44.1 innings. On top of the command issues, he holds a 12.46 ERA in the last 5 game appearances along with a 3.17 WHIP. You could certainly feel comfortable if the Pirates were down a run or two heading into the 9th that the game could still be won.
Lastly, I could tell you that the Pirates should win this game because Ryan Vogelsong has been quite the unsung player to this team’s pitching core. Sure, it has only been 39.1 innings, but he has produced everywhere and every time the Pirates needed him. Whether it was in long relief duties or in some spot starts, Vogelsong now carries a 3.20 ERA on the season and a 2.55 ERA in three starts since coming off of the facial fracture injury.
All of these things above are reasons that I could say the Pirates should win this game, but I am not going to do that today. Instead I am going to talk about Josh Bell making his first MLB career start today. After Jung Ho Kang was sent to the DL yesterday due to a shoulder injury which looks to keep him out 2-4 weeks, the Pirates recalled top prospect, Josh Bell.
Like every other game Bell has seen in his short MLB stint, he rode the pine and was delegated to pinch hit duties. Well today that is going to change. Josh Bell is making his first MLB start and will be playing first base. After all the scrutiny of Josh Bell not getting the call due to his defensive woes at first base, Pittsburgh apparently feels comfortable enough to place him there today.
I would love to say that I see Bell coming in and mashing much like he did in Chicago, but lets be realistic here. He is still just a rookie who has seen five MLB at bats. On top of that, he has actually struggled since Pittsburgh has sent him back to Indianapolis. During that time Bell has only slashed .211/.312/.275 with just one home run. Though this was an obvious struggle in 109 at bats, his season slash of .295/.382/.468 is still very respectable and callup worthy.
With Kang out for the foreseeable near future, We will see David Freese handle everyday duties at third base, while a likely platoon of John Jaso and Josh Bell will man first. With all the scrutiny that Jaso has been getting among Pirate fans (here at the NS9 as well) Jaso has quietly regained his form from the beginning of this season. In the month of August, Jaso has hit .240/.441/.360 in limited at bats. The key there is limited, because if anything this season showed that Jaso can be productive but with a reduced role. As Bell arrives, I think it will be safe to say that Jaso will still be limited.
Having David Freese take over full time at third may be a blessing to this team. Kang was struggling heavily offensively and defensively since the allegations from Chicago. Freese has displayed a much better glove that will certainly result in less errors (Kang had 12 on the year and 9 just in August) and better offense. Freese has his well this year to a tune of .279/.359/.442 with 12 home runs in 344 at bats.