The Pirates and Marlins will renew acquaintances tonight at 7:10PM for the start of a four-game series at Marlins Park. The first two games of this series was originally scheduled for Puerto Rico, but was moved back to Miami due to some mosquitos and a nasty Zika virus.
The Marlins are off to a decent start to the season as they’ve surprised some folks in the NL East. Despite just dropping 2-of-3 to the Braves this weekend, the Marlins still own a 26-24 record and are right in the thick of the things in a crowded division. Anytime a time employs Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, they have a good chance of at least competing.
Look out for Marcell Ozuna, who is having a great season with 10 home runs and a hefty .990 OPS. Ozuna has taken some of the pressure of Stanton and Christian Yelich in the heart of that order. Stanton may be struggling at the plate and at getting on base with a .214 average and .326 OBP, but he still leads the team in home runs with 12. Ichiro Suzuki is still playing baseball and he’s living out his chase for 3,000 hits on South Beach, where he’s actually having a surprise couple of months, hitting .317 on the year. Ichiro couldn’t be further away from where he started his MLB career going from Seattle to Miami. He’s just 39 hits away from the magic number of 3,000.
Tonight the Marlins will start LHP Justin Nicolino against the Bucs. The former second round pick of the 2010 draft, Nicolino has been a pitching prospect for the Fish, but has yet to put it all together. In just his second season in the bigs, the southpaw has been a mixed bag of results with a 4.37 ERA, but a 5.03 FIP. He’ll make his 7th start of the season and only has pitched past the 6th inning once this season. He faced the Pirates once last season and received the loss despite only giving up two runs in 6.0 innings of work. One unusual note of his is that he owns an ERA a run and a half lower on the road than at home.
The Pirates will roll LHP Jeff Locke out there against this tough Marlins lineup. Locke will make his 10th start of the season and he’s pitched like how you would expect a 5th starter to pitch. He holds an ERA just over five, but for all the negative things said about him, it’s surprising to note that Locke has pitched at least 6.0 innings in six of his nine starts in 2016. Not too bad from a back of the rotation guy. His days in the rotation do appear to be numbered with Taillon and Glasnow continued to mow down Triple-A. Locke’s K/9 is down from last year, his BB/9 and HR/9 are up from last year and his BABIP is actually only at .292, which is 20 points lower than last year so you’d expect some improvement from him, but the numbers haven’t shown it.
Here’s the pitching matchups for this series: