That’s correct, tonight begins the Pirates second stretch of interleague play due to MLB’s wonderful idea of having an interleague game everyday – hint of sarcasm! However, the Pirates are in Arlington for the weekend to face the Rangers. Tonight’s scheduled first pitch will be at 8:05.
Though the Ranger are in the AL and the Pirates have only played them 15 total times, there is a lot of familiarity with Rangers pitcher, Cole Hamels. As you may know, Hamels pitched 9 1/2 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies to much success. In that time span, he faced the Pirates nine times, tallying just 3 wins but also sporting an impressive 2.43 ERA. Verse all the teams he has faced, the Pirates hold the third lowest OPS against him with a .560. It would be factually correct to say that Cole Hamels has owned the Pirates. You say you need more validation? How about the fact that in 63 innings, Hamels has allowed just 4 home runs, owns a .937 WHIP, and has a 5.58 SO/W rate.
There is good news though. Most of these stats come from some very pathetic hitting teams from Pittsburgh much before they were playoff contenders. Also, even though he owns a 2.83 ERA this season, his career high’s in FIP (4.50), HR/9 (1.6), and BB/9 (3.3) show that there is some obvious regression coming. Since this Pirates team is clearly the best hitting team they’ve had since Hamels debut in 2006, tonight’s game will make for an interesting matchup.
The current Pirates have had some success against Hamels. Andrew McCutchen has done well going 7 for 24 (.292/.346/.458) and a home run, a double, and six RBI’s. Starling Marte is 4 for 13 (.308/.308/.375) with a double. Also, Francisco Cervelli is 3 for 8 (.375/.375/.500) with a double. We know this team has had great success with the bats in 2016 as they lead the N.L. in batting average (.284) and on base percentage (.361), while Gregory Polanco still hold the N.L. lead in runs (35) and doubles (18).
Jon Niese will be taking the mound for the Bucco’s and comes into this game with a 4.75 ERA. Though the ERA is not where many fans expected it to be (or maybe it actually is) he has lowered it by nearly an entire point by stringing together three straight quality starts. In those three starts, he holds a 2.81 ERA with 14 strikeouts and 4 walks. Unlike Hamels, Niese has only faced his opponent twice and has only seen real at bats against just one of their players, Ian Desmond. For his career while in the N.L. East, Desmond is 8 for 29 (.276/.323./345) with just two extra base hits that went for doubles. Even more amazingly is the fact that he didn’t tally an RBI in any of his at bats. The Rangers are effective on the offensive side themselves as they hold a team .260 batting average, and have been lead by rookie outfielder, Nomar Mazara.
Over the past 14 days, Gregory Polanco is coming in HOT. He has hit .412 with eight doubles, one triple, and two homers, while driving in 10 RBI’s. Polanco has really found his stride and success this year and has been breaking out by every sense of the term this year. Along with Polanco, John Jaso and Jordy Mercer have really picked it up over the past two weeks as well. Jaso has hit .341 while Mercer is hitting .311. With the potential of an offensive shower over the plains in Arlington, Pittsburgh will surely need to keep the bats hot to continue their current hot streak.
- Mercer SS
- McCutchen CF
- Freese 3B
- Kang DH
- Cervelli C
- Marte LF
- Harrison 2B
- Polanco RF
- Rodriguez 1B