Morning Report: Pirates Have a Tough Schedule Ahead

Counting today, the Pittsburgh Pirates have 31 games over the next 33 days and it’s not an easy schedule, not that it gets any better in September. One thing to remember the rest of the way, is the teams they won’t be playing anymore. At this point, they are done playing the Padres, Phillies and Braves, all teams with losing records that they went 14-6 against this year. After today, they are done with American League teams as well, and they went 12-7 in those games.

So now we get into the actual schedule, just so you can see how tough it is from here on out. After wrapping up a short series with the Twins today, the Pirates go on the road for four games in Cincinnati. That obviously isn’t a tough team on paper when you see a 44-54 record, but there are some things to remember with this Pirates team. They are 23-24 this season on the road and they are 2-7 against the Reds. Not facing Johnny Cueto will help, but they also didn’t face him in eight of those nine previous games.

From there, the Pirates will return home for a big three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates are 4-6 against the Cubs this year and Chicago has a winning record on the road. Next up after one of their two off-days, they have a three-game series against the Dodgers, who haven’t played the Pirates yet this year. They are the first place team in the West, though they only have a half game lead over the Giants at this point.

After those two big series, the Pirates have that second day off, then it’s perhaps the biggest series of the season. That will all depend on how things shake out up to that point, and it will probably be topped later in the year by another series. Pittsburgh heads to St Louis for three games, starting a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

From St Louis, the Pirates go the New York to take on the Mets. They beefed up their roster already at the trade deadline and plan to do more before Friday, plus they expect a couple injured players to return.

Next up after a flight home, it’s the Diamondbacks for three games. That’s the easy part, although you never want to assume anything at this point. Arizona is still there to try to win and you don’t want the Pirates looking ahead to the next series, which could surpass that Cardinals series in importance.

The Pirates and Giants will meet four times at PNC Park between August 20-23. As things stand now, the Giants are the second wild card team and we all know what happened last year when these two clubs met in the wild card game.

The schedule for August finishes with two easy teams, although there are some scheduling issues involved, plus they are games 14-to-20 of that stretch with no days off. After playing the Giants on Sunday night for ESPN, the Pirates travel to Miami for four games. The final game there is a night game and then they are traveling home to face the Rockies, who have off on that Thursday, so they will get into Pittsburgh well ahead of the Pirates.

I won’t get into September now, other than to say it is also brutal for the Pirates. Remember me mentioning that they are 23-24 on the road this year? Well they play 19 games on the road in September with just one day off all month. When they finally return home at the end of the month, the Cardinals will be there waiting for them.

If this team can really pull through at the end of the season and finish strong, then you know you have a special group of players. The schedule definitely isn’t on their side the rest of the way, so they better be ready for those dog days of summer.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 6.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 3.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 3-7 in their last ten games. They are now second in their division, losing four games in standings in the last ten days.

Altoona is 6-4 in their last ten games and they are in second place, two games back of Bowie.

Bradenton is 7-3 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by two games in the standings.

West Virginia is 7-3 in their last ten games and they have a three game lead in the division.

Morgantown is 9-1 in their last ten games. They trail by five games in the division.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated Minnesota 8-7 on Tuesday night. The two teams wrap up the quick two-game series with an afternoon contest today, with Francisco Liriano taking on Ervin Santana. Liriano gave up one run over six innings in his last start and he picked up 11 strikeouts. Santana has a 2.60 ERA in four starts this season and he’s thrown 15.2 scoreless innings in his last two starts combined.

In the minors, Radhames Liz gets the start for Indianapolis. He gave up four earned runs in his start on July 11th against Columbus(today’s opponent) compared to one earned run in 28 innings during his other five starts. Liz is holding batters to a .181 average and he has an 0.99 WHIP. Frank Duncan has a 2.38 ERA in five July starts, going seven innings in four of those starts. He also has a 1:22 BB/SO ratio this month. West Virginia has off and Bradenton has a morning start time. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (58-41) vs Twins (52-47) 1:10 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (2.91 ERA, 42:136 BB/SO, 120.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (58-46) @ Columbus (59-45) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Radhames Liz (1.17 ERA, 13:45 BB/SO, 38.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (56-48) vs Richmond (53-49) 12:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (4.17 ERA, 24:52 BB/SO, 114.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (52-49, 20-11 second half) @ Clearwater (58-45) 10:30 AM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Frank Duncan (4.40 ERA, 12:77 BB/SO, 102.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (59-42, 22-10 second half) vs Lakewood (52-48) 7:05 PM 7/30 (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (2.06 ERA, 17:61 BB/SO, 65.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (20-17) @ Tri-City (20-17) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Luis Paula (5.40 ERA, 0:11 BB/SO, 11.2 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (13-19) vs Greeneville (19-15) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Marek Minarik (6.29 ERA, 10:16 BB/SO, 24.1 IP)

GCL: Pirates (16-11) vs Astros (10-20) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (20-30) vs Cubs (28-22) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here is a video of JaCoby Jones’ first hit and RBI for Altoona. He had three hits in the game.

Recent Transactions

7/28: Gift Ngoepe placed on disabled list.

7/28: Pirates release Ulises Montilla.

7/28: Brent Morel refuses outright assignment to Indianapolis.

7/28: Miguel Ferreras retires. Mervin Del Rosario promoted to Bristol.

7/27: JaCoby Jones promoted to Altoona. Josh Smith placed on disabled list.

7/27: Steve Lombardozzi sent outright to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez placed on disabled list.

7/27: Jordan Steranka activated from Bradenton disabled list. Isaac Sanchez placed on disabled list.

7/27: Junior Sosa added to Bradenton roster.

7/26: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Bristol on rehab.

7/25: Pirates designate Brent Morel for assignment.

7/25: Justin Sellers sent outright to Indianapolis

7/25: Adam Miller assigned to GCL on rehab

7/24: Robert Stock activated from disabled list.

7/23: Pirates traded Yhonathan Barrios to Milwaukee Brewers for Aramis Ramirez and cash.

7/23: Steve Lombardozzi designated for assignment.

7/23: John Holdzkom assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/23: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/23: Wes Freeman released. Andy Otamendi assigned to Bradenton.

7/23: Mervin Del Rosario assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/22: Pirates purchase contract of Pedro Florimon. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis. Jayson Aquino designated for assignment.

7/22: Barrett Barnes promoted to Altoona. Andy Vasquez promoted to Indianapolis.

7/22:  Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/21: Jonathan Schwind and Andrew Lambo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/21: Harold Ramirez activated from temporary inactive list. Robert Stock placed on disabled list.

7/20: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Brent Morel. Corey Hart transferred to 60-day DL.

7/20: Tito Polo activated from temporary inactive list. Jeff Roy promoted to Bradenton.

7/20: Kelson Brown activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/19: Junior Lopez assigned to Bradenton. Oderman Rocha assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/19: Pirates place Gorkys Hernandez on DL. Wilfredo Boscan recalled.

7/19: Jose Tabata activated from temporary inactive list.

7/17: Pirates sign Jake Thompson. Assigned to Indianapolis.

7/17: Pirates recall Jaff Decker.

7/17: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton. Junior Lopez assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/16: Hunter Morris placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jose Tabata placed on temporary inactive list.

7/15:  Pirates sign Ryan Nagle. Assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Pirates sign Brandon Waddell and James Marvel. Waddell assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Luis Paula sent to Morgantown.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus four trades of note and a special hit from the franchise’s all-time greatest player. The players born on this date are Mike Williams, closer for the Pirates from 1998 until 2003 and a two-time All-Star. Tommy Gregg, outfielder in 1987-88 and seventh round pick of the Pirates in 1985. Dave LaPoint, a lefty starter acquired by the Pirates late in the 1988 season. He made eight starts and won four games, with a 2.77 ERA. Erv Dusak, utility player for the 1951-52 Pirates, who saw time at six different positions and even started a game on the mound. George Cutshaw, second baseman from 1918 until 1921. He was part of the big trade in 1918 that involved Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Burleigh Grimes.

The Pirates made two trades on this date in 2009, sending Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Mariners, and Freddy Sanchez to the Giants for six players total in return. Nine years earlier, they acquired Wilson from the Cardinals in exchange for Jason Christiansen. Wilson played 1159 games for the Pirates, while the Cardinals got 29.1 innings out of Christiansen.

On this date in 1916, the Pirates and Cubs made a four-player deal that involved a catcher going each way and two well-known veterans changing teams. The Pirates sent second baseman Otto Knabe to Chicago and got outfielder Frank Schulte. Knabe was an All-Star caliber player, who was nearing the end of his career and at the time of the deal, the Pirates had actually sent him home because they said he was too out of shape. Schulte too was near the end, but during his prime, he became the first player to hit 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers and steal 20 bases in the same season. Only three players have accomplished that feat since, so it is extremely rare. With big names in the deal and a veteran catcher going to Chicago, the best player after the deal was young catcher William Fischer, who was hitting below .200 at the time of the trade. He played well for the Pirates through the end of the 1917 season.

Exactly 100 years ago, Honus Wagner hit an inside-the-park grand slam in an 8-2 win over Brooklyn. It was the 97th home run of his career and he hit just four more after this one. Wagner hit five grand slams in his career and all were inside-the-park homers. You can read more about the game in the link above.

  • Piece of cake.

  • Phils are 9-1 since the all star break. Don’t know if I’d want to play them right now.

    • There is no way they can keep up that pace. They weren’t good before the trades, including whatever they make by Friday

      • AR filled a gaping hole at third. To actually improve we still need a big pressure late inning reliever who is tough on right handed bats. I am starting to think a starter is more important than a right handed bat for right field and the bench, with Polanco’s improvement. If the market is going to be flooded with pitching we should take one. Query, is Byrd still out there?

  • I was looking at the schedule at the ASG and almost choked. Forget what’s coming up, we just went through a brutal stretch as well (the easiest of which was the Brewers who swept us).
    Meanwhile the Cards go:
    And then September. You don’t have to be Debbie Downer to not like the looks of those.

    • We aren’t winning the division….it will be a dog fight to win the wild card let alone the top wild card.

      • Scott Kliesen
        July 29, 2015 8:37 am

        Odds are definitely not in Pirates favor, but to say they are definitely not winning is a bit more than presumptuous.

        • Agree with your perspective. Old adage (but I’m old) says you can only play them one game at a time. A lot can happen/change between now and October.

  • Hopefully the Golden State Philosophy was implemented for the next two months. I think they will need to add pitching either via a trade or call ups. Good Luck Buccos.

    • Cutch appears to like the Golden State philosophy so much that he’s begun taking games off even when in the lineup.

      • Unless there is some understanding that he can “pace” himself, there is a bit of disappointment on the edges of his play. No attempt at triples, no stolen bases, throwing to wrong base, playing too deep. Great player……..but the knee or something else is holding him back.

      • I couldn’t agree with you more NMR.

      • I’m beginning to think Cutch has a bit of a passive/aggressive streak.

  • Meanwhile, the Mets play only 15 games vs teams with winning records the rest of the way. And 12 of those are at home.

    With their pitching, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find them on our tail come September, especially if Wright returns before then.

    • With the moves the Cubs made this off-season, and the Mets pitching, it was always going to be at least a 7 team race for 5 slots. The Pirates have 3 of the Top 13 SP’s in the NL, but the Cards also have 3 in the Top 13 SP’s. I like the way that the Pirates seem to be finding ways to get everyone involved, especially with the bats. Polanco and Kang are smoking the ball, and we needed Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez to come alive.

      We need the Top 3 of the Rotation to continue strong and we could sure use a month long run from Morton – that 7.00+ ERA in the last 7 starts is a killer. Surprised at Locke throwing 94 on a regular basis, and he has done very well in his last 7 starts. Regardless of whether we make another move or not, I am comfortable that the Pirates have more than enough to make the playoffs.

      • We need multiple bullpen pieces to strengthen this team down the stretch.

        • Scott Kliesen
          July 29, 2015 8:38 am

          I’m sure NH is working the phones hard to get some help in here ASAP!

          • I think he just moved some help from AA to AAA (Tyler Glasnow) – do not be surprised if he ends up at PNC in September. I know that stuff never happens – not like in 2013 when Michael Wacha came up in August for the Cardinals. I hope we do not get to the point of needing him.

            While looking at relievers, what a win-win trade between the Yankees and the Pirates involving Francisco Cervelli and Justin Wilson.

            • If he puts AAA hitters to sleep like he has those at every other level, I wouldn’t discount your comment. As recently as a 2 months ago I would have scoffed at that, but not any more.

            • I’d be shocked if Glasnow ended up in Pittsburgh before next June

          • 🙂

      • How about improved performance from McCutchen, both offensively and defensively, not to mention a base hit or two from the cleanup hitter. That might alleviate the pressure for a Pedro Alvarez and a Neil Walker to ” come alive ” as you say it.

        • Good pep talk – ‘Cutch must be reading. I used the past tense “needed” because Neil and Pedro were dead and have come to life the past few weeks and helped this team big time. Luckily, they and Polanco and Kang stepped up at just the right time.

          Can Bastardo pitch one inning . . . . ? Ever? We better find a LHRP that can be trusted to get 3 outs – I favored Furbush from Seattle and he has been on the DL since July 7 with Bicep Tendonitus, and is supposed to return today or tomorrow.

          • I’d like Furbush too, but he’s an August acquisition if at all. He’ll probably need 2-3 rehab games and looks like the first one won’t be until August 7-8. Hopefully Bucs will be scouting those.

  • scrappy2499
    July 29, 2015 7:34 am

    It seems that the only teams they can’t seem to figure out are the Brewers, Reds, Cubs. I’ll be the glass half full guy and say this will be a great stretch for them.