Game 122: An old NL Central Foe

The Pirates need a stopper after being swept to the Marlins this weekend, and Jameson Taillon may be just the man for the job.

Taillon makes his 12th start of his ML career tonight and first against the Astros in an old school NL Central matchup. The rookie has been solid for the Bucs with a 3.00 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 66 innings of work featuring a 7.1 K/9 and just 1.2 BB/9. He’s already worth a 1.8 WAR on the season and the Bucs will hope he can lead the Bucs to a win tonight to halt their three-game skid.

The pitching wasn’t the problem this weekend with the culprit being the defense and the bats. The Pirates offense scored just three runs in the past two games against suspect pitching and will face Astros RHP Doug Fister. Fister is 11-8 with a 3.76 ERA (4.54 FIP) through 24 starts this season. Pitching has been a problem this season for Houston and what has dampened their season after a breakout playoff season in 2015. Fister has made five starts in his career against Pittsburgh and owns a 2.08 ERA.

The Astros are 8.5 games back of first-place Texas in the AL West and are once again battling for that wildcard berth. They’re in a similar boat as the Pirates as they find themselves 3.5 games back of the wildcard.

The Astros have a formidable lineup that can do just about it all. Jose Altuve has developed into one of the best hitters in the game as he comes into tonight’s game hitting a stupid .365/.428/.578. He can hit just about anything, he’s fast and can play a solid second base. Oh, and the 5’6 Venezuela native is just 26 years old. Not going to lie, I’m excited about watching him this series.

The Astros also feature a couple more young studs in Carlos Correa and George Springer. Springer leads the team in home runs with 25 and Correa is one of the great, young shortstops in the game right now. He’s slashing .272/.365/.468 with 18 HRs and 86 RBIs. Plus, the Astros just called up their top prospect Alex Bregman and he’s been starting to heat up recently. This lineup is no joke, so it’ll be a good measuring stick for Taillon tonight.

Josh Bell starts at first base for the second straight game. And David Freese is in the lineup and at third base fresh off the news of his 2-year/$11M extension with the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen is 5-for-11 against Fister in his career, but all five hits were singles. McCutchen, however, has a lot of great numbers against pitchers in his career that hasn’t helped him much this season.

Pirates North Shore Nine
Harrison 2B
Marte LF
McCutchen CF
Polanco RF
Freese 3B
Bell 1B
Cervelli C
Mercer SS
Taillon P

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