Game 56: Cole Pitches the Rubber Match

After finally finding their offense and pulling out the victory in yesterday’s game, the Pirates (30-25) prepare to take on the Angels (25-30) in the final game of the series. Gerrit Cole will pitch for Pittsburgh while Hector Santiago will take the bump for the Angels. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh offense was pretty anemic over the past week as it failed to score more than two runs in five of the last seven games. Then yesterday came and it appeared they got their groove back scoring eight runs and hitting three home runs. Today they will attempt to build on that as they face left handed pitcher, Hector Santiago.

Santiago had a very solid start to the season, but has fallen apart in his last 35 innings. Over that span, he has allowed 26 earned runs. In his last start, he gave up six runs in 6.2 innings of work which has seen his ERA balloon from a 2.70 to a now 4.96. His FIP of 5.60 and xFIP of 4.75 suggest that there is more of this to come. He is a career 3.69 but this season the long ball has been his kryptonite. He is averaging just over 2 home runs per nine innings and has accumulated a league leading 14 in just 61.2 innings. Though the pace wasn’t as egregious, he found himself leading the A.L. last year in homers as well as he gave up 29 then. Though he is a left, Pittsburgh has found themselves hitting for more power verse lefties and they are slugging .445 as a team. This could spell trouble for Santiago, especially if the team is finally waking up.

For Pittsburgh, Gerrit Cole will take the mound today. Unlike Santiago, Cole had a rougher start to the season, but has settled in firmly showing his Ace stuff. Over his last four starts, he has gone 2-1 with an ERA of 1.37. His last start was verse a very talented Jose Fernandez where he came up short to earn the near impossible victory at Marlins Park on #JoseDay. He went 6.1 innings allowed three earned runs and took his first loss in his previous five starts. Cole has a 2.72 ERA on the year and a 3.12 FIP.

Today’s lineup will feature Starling Marte in CF as Andrew McCutchen takes the day off. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t be opposed to giving him a couple days off to get him fresh mentally and physically. Cutch has been struggling at the plate all year as we have seen his K rate increase to a career high of 23.5%. His second highest of his career came last season where it was still just a 19.4%. Even more frustrating was watching him in yesterday’s game where he got caught picked off trying to steal second and was faked by the pitcher, though Bob Walk will surely yell that it was a balk. Also, he blooped a routine play in center that enabled Kole Calhoun to advance to third. A soft liner was hit right in front of him and he was unable to scoop the ball up, rather kicking it up with his foot and sending it 10 feet the opposite direction.

With Cutch taking the day off, Gregory Polanco will shift to left and we will see the man of the year, Matt Joyce, in right field today. Joyce comes into this game with an amazing slash line of .333/.465/.681/.1.146 and has six home runs in just 69 at bats. Joyce hasn’t faired well against lefties for his career, but did hit his three run homer last night off of a lefty and is batting .357 this year off of lefties, though it is just a 14 at bats sample size.

Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte come into this game hot. In the past three games, Kang has totaled four hits as all have gone for extra base hits. He has accumulated two doubles and two home runs while driving in three runs and scoring three runs. Since his return, Kang now has 21 hits with 15 of them going for extra bases. Marte, on the other hand, has six hits in the past two games with two doubles, a triple, and a home run.

Pirates Lineup:

  1. Mercer SS
  2. Harrison 2B
  3. Polanco LF
  4. Kang 3B
  5. Marte CF
  6. Rodriguez 1B
  7. Joyce RF
  8. Stewart C
  9. Cole P

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