Series #11—California Dreamin’

Series Quick Look
Monday, May 8, 10:10PM 
Tuesday, May 9, 10:10PM

Wednesday, May 10, 10:10PM
at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

Get ready for some late night baseball! The Pirates make their first of two road trips to the west coast in 2017 to face the Dodgers for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. The Pirates have played at Dodger Stadium every year since it opened in 1962, and they’ve played the Dodgers every season going all the way back to 1890 when the Dodgers were the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. Dodger Stadium is the second oldest ballpark in the National League behind only Wrigley Field. This will also be the Pirates first games against the NL West this season. The Bucs were very good against the NL West division last year, going 22-11 including 5-2 versus the Dodgers.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Dodgers lead 1,131-1,004
Last matchup…August 12-14, 2016. Pirates took two-of-three at Dodger Stadium, outscoring LA 20-12.

About the Dodgers:
The Dodgers were off to a slow start this season at 10-12 before going 7-2 over the past week to sit at 17-14 and two and a half games back of Colorado in the NL West. What else is new other than the Dodgers come in with a bunch of injuries. Not only is their rotation missing Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but their lineup is short an Adrian Gonzalez, Logan Forsythe and Andre Ethier. Despite the injuries, the Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager. Thankfully and luckily, the Pirates will miss Kershaw this series. Seager and Justin Turner are the ones hitter so far this season, but overall Los Angeles is third in the National League with a 102 wRC. Even with their enormous payroll, the Dodgers are relying on young guns Julio Urias and Cody Bellinger this season as well. They’re solid defensively, but one of the worst baserunning teams (-4.1 BsR) in the NL. Only the Pirates are worse at -6.3 BsR. The Dodgers also own the NL’s top ERA with 3.33 and exactly the same FIP, but once again they’re missing some starting pitching and those numbers include Kershaw’s performance. The Dodgers returned home for this quick three-game series before heading back out on the road to Colorado and San Francisco. This is the only non-divisional games the Dodgers will play in 17 days.


5/8: RHP Trevor Williams (5.40 ERA/5.35 FIP, 132 FIP-) vs.
LHP Alex Wood (3.28 ERA/2.47 FIP, 61 FIP-)

Trevor Williams will get an opportunity in his first start of 2017 after starting the season in the bullpen. It’ll be his second start of his MLB career. He gets the nod due to Pirates starter Jameson Taillon being put on the DL with groin discomfort. Taillon is only expected to miss a couple starts so Williams will most likely get a couple spot starts here. Williams has struggled in the bullpen to start the year with seven walks in 11.2 innings and a 5.40 ERA/5.35 FIP. Throughout the minors, Williams was a high groundball pitcher and showed that in the Majors last year in limited time with a 45.5 GB%, but this season he’s down to getting groundballs just 27.8% of the time. That needs to improve for Williams to be successful in the rotation or the bullpen. For a team riddled with injuries to their pitching staff, lefty Alex Wood has been solid through four starts so far for the Dodgers. A 2.47 FIP and a 9.9 K/9 in 24.2 innings. His last two starts, however, have been against the light hitting Giants but he struck out eight over five innings with four runs allowed on May 2. The Pirates last saw Wood in three starts  in 2015 (two of those starts were as a member of the Braves before being dealt at the deadline to LA).

5/9: RHP Ivan Nova (2.14 ERA/2.51 FIP, 63 FIP-) vs.
LHP Julio Urias (0.84 ERA/4.35 FIP, 106 FIP-)

Nova is coming off his worst start of the season, but even though he gave up four runs on 10 hits, he still walked none and went six innings for his team. Hiss strong start to 2017 has him leading the NL in multiple categories, including complete games (2), shutouts (1), FIP (2.51), WHIP (0.88), BB/9 (0.2) and strikeout to walk ratio with 27.0. This will be Nova’s second start versus the Dodgers after facing them last year in just his second start with Pittsburgh. He went 5.1 innings with just one run allowed, no walks and two strikeouts for the win at Dodger Stadium on August 12, 2016. The Bucs will face a big pitching prospect in Urias as he makes his third start of the season. Urias is sporting a nice 0.84 ERA, but his 4.35 FIP tells more of the story. Urias has walked eight and struck out just five in 10.2 innings and is just some luck with a .258 BABIP. The 20-year-old southpaw started the season in Triple-A Oklahoma City, but got the call after three solid starts and a bunch of injuries to the Dodgers rotation. Urias will make his first career start against the Pirates, but has actually faced the Bucs out of the pen last year by tossing a scoreless 2.2 innings.

5/10: RHP Chad Kuhl (5.54 ERA/3.54 FIP, 88 FIP-) vs.
RHP Kenta Maeda (5.81 ERA/4.58 FIP, 112 FIP-)

Kuhl’s last start on May 5 was cut short due to rain as he blanked the Brewers through three innings on two strikeouts where he pounded the strike zone (32 strikes in 43 pitches). Besides that Cubs start where Kuhl gave up nine runs, he’s been a solid starter for the Pirates and has a 2.59 ERA in his other five outings. I would love to see Kuhl continue his start that was rained out against the Dodgers here on the road. Remember, Kuhl made his Major League debut on June 26 against the Dodgers and picking up the victory over Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers will wrap up this series with Maeda on the mound. The Japanese sensation had a great rookie campaign in 2016, but is struggling through six starts this year. He’s still striking out 10.2 hitters per nine, but has given up seven home runs in those six starts. Maeda’s only gone past the 5th inning once this season. The Pirates faced Maeda once last year on June 25 and scored four runs in five innings off of the righthander.

TV (All games): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, SportsNet LA, SportsNet LA Spanish
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7


Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.
Starling Marte (OF): Suspended 80 games (April 18)—Use of PED’s.
Adam Frazier (2B/OF): 10-Day DL (April 24)—Left hamstring strain.
Antonio Bastardo (P): 10-Day DL (April 25)—Left quad strain. 
David Freese (3B/1B): 10-Day DL (April 29)—Right hamstring strain.
Jameson Taillon (P): 10-Day DL (May 6)—Groin discomfort.  

Los Angeles:
Yimi Garcia (P): 60-Day DL (Feb. 16)—Recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Josh Ravin (P): 10-Day DL (March 24)—Right groin strain.
Brock Stewart (P): 10-Day DL (April 2)—Right shoulder tendinitis.
Scott Kazmir (P): 10-Day DL (April 2)—Left hip strain.
Andre Ethier (RF): 10-Day DL (April 2)—Slight disk herniation.

Rich Hill (P): 10-Day DL (April 17)—Blister on left middle finger. 

Rob Segedin (1B): 10-Day DL (April 19)—Right big toe strain.
Logan Forsythe (2B): 10-Day DL (April 19)—Right big toe fracture. 

Hyun-Jin Ryu (P): 10-Day DL (May 1)—Left hip contusion.

Adrian Gonzalez (1B): 10-Day DL (May 5)—Right elbow soreness.

Josh Bell has heated in recent weeks to erase a dismal start. Since April 17, Bell’s hitting .308/.392/.585/.977 with five home runs, three doubles and eight RBI. Overall he has a 118 wRC+ and has been one of the Pirates best hitters. His plate discipline and bat is sorely needed in this lineup void of Kang, Marte, Freese and Frazier.

Remember all the worries we had about closer Tony Watson coming out of spring training? The back end of the Bucs bullpen has been terrific with Watson and Felipe Rivero combining for two runs allowed in 30.2 innings of work. Watson is 7-for-7 in save opportunities and Rivero has struck out 19 in 18.1 innings.

After a hot start at Triple-A to start the season, the Dodgers decided to call up their big hitting prospect Cody Bellinger on April 25. Bellinger has not disappointed either, hitting .357/.413/.786 in his first taste of the Majors. He’s already homered five times, hit one triple and one double in just 42 at-bats to prove he belongs at just 21 years old. He also is a plus defender at first base and probably won’t be seeing Triple-A again. He homered three times in his past two games, both at massive Petco Park.

The Dodgers could field another team with the bodies on the DL currently. Not only are they missing pitchers like Hill, Kazmir and Ryu, but they’re all down Forsythe, Gonzalez and Ethier. Bellinger is doing a great job in Gonzalez’s place, but Chase Utley is struggling this season with a putrid .100/.196/.120 slash line.

Look out for Justin Turner at the hot corner. Turner only has one long ball on the season, but he’s 40-for-106 (.377) to start the year. He has a ridiculous .451 on-base percentage that ranks fourth in the NL and he’s already amassed a 1.7 fWAR. Facing Turner, Seager and Bellinger trio will be a tough test for the Pirates rotation.

The Pirates are back on the road with a quick weekend at home. The Bucs will continue a stretch of 14-of-17 games on the road before returning home next Tuesday.

The Pirates west coast trip continues with a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert.

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