clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cleveland Indians at Pittsburgh Pirates series preview

Team Jekyll and Hyde just finished one of the best series in recent memory. The Tribe look to continue their winning road ways with a series in PNC Park and the red hot Pittsburgh Pirates.

Starling Marte, the best Pirate hitter in 2015
Starling Marte, the best Pirate hitter in 2015
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

At the conclusion of the Orioles series last weekend, I had all but written off the Cleveland Indians in 2015. But then, a four game sweep in Tampa has pulled me, and most of you back into the fold. The Tribe now sits just four games under 0.500 and finish this long road trip with three in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Amazing what four superb pitching performances can do for the psyche.

But the task this weekend will not come easy. The Pirates are one of the hottest teams in baseball. They have won twenty of their past thirty which included an eight game streak. Plus they just swept the Tigers in Detroit.

  • Friday 7:05 PM: Trevor Bauer (R) vs. Charlie Morton (R)
  • Saturday 4:05 PM: Cody Anderson (R) vs. Jeff Locke (L)
  • Sunday 1:35 PM: Danny Salazar (R) vs. Gerrit Cole (R)

The Week Ahead:

The Tribe wrap up the first half of a disappointing season at home with visits from the Astros and A's for four and three games respectively.

Division Watch: Twins at Royals, Blue Jays at Tigers vs Reds, Orioles at White Sox.

Team in a Box

Pittsburgh Pirates

Offense

NL Rank

Pitching

NL Rank

2015 Record

45-33

Runs/Game

4.1

7th

Runs/Game

3.4

2nd

NL Central

2nd

OBP

320

6th

H/9

8.4

6th

Last 10

6-4

SLG

385

9th

BB/9

2.6

5th

Last 30

20-10

Steals

61

3rd

SO/9

8.0

4th

The Pirates are a very dangerous team. Although they are in second place by six games that is because they are in the same division as the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates have the second best record in the NL and are tied for third best in the majors with the Royals.

The pitching staff is top five in most NL categories, including second in ERA. The top three in the rotation (Burnett, Cole and Liriano) all are excellent. And the bullpen is lights out. Offensively they are not as good as pitching, but they are far from poor. They sit in the middle tier of NL teams in most categories. And defensively they are twelfth in errors.

Projected Roster

Pos

Player

Bats

PA

BA

OPS

wRC+

C

Francisco Cervelli

R

242

304

788

126

1B

Pedro Alvarez

L

254

248

779

111

2B

Neil Walker

S

295

278

767

116

3B

Josh Harrison

R

314

276

691

96

SS

Jordy Mercer

R

253

248

628

70

LF

Starling Marte

R

322

288

809

125

CF

Andrew McCutchen

R

329

295

868

142

RF

Gregory Polanco

L

294

310

650

81

IF

Jung Ho Kang

R

216

260

708

103

UT

Sean Rodriguez

R

115

241

632

75

C

Chris Stewart

R

86

288

693

94

IF

Steve Lombardozzi

S

6

000

167

-36

OF

Gorkys Hernandez

R

3

000

000

-100

The offense's power is led by Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez. Both have doble digit home runs on the season. McCutchen is still fantastic as well. The hitting stars the past two weeks have been Walker (1278 OPS), McCutchen (1035), Alvarez (931) and Mercer (931). Polanco (596) and Harrison (538) were having the most struggles.

Again, as the Indians haven't faced the Pirates since 2012, many of the players have little or no stats versus the Tribe. Cervelli leads all Pirate hitters in plate appearances but has a 172/231/207 slash. Alvarez (132) has hit well but hat is in just 25 PA. Walker has a 757 OPS in 41 PA, Harrison a 583 OPS in 9 PA and McCutchen a 637 OPS in 56 PA.

Projected Staff

Player

Throws

ERA

FIP

IP

WHIP

K/9

A.J. Burnett

R

2.05

2.57

105.1

1.23

7.7

Gerritt Cole

R

2.20

2.64

102.1

1.14

9.5

Francisco Liriano

L

2.99

3.07

102.1

1.02

9.9

Jeff Locke

L

4.55

3.94

83.0

1.52

6.9

Charlie Morton

R

4.28

3.78

40.0

1.30

5.0

Mark Melancon

R

1.66

2.95

38.0

0.97

6.2

Tony Watson

L

2.09

2.88

38.2

0.91

8.6

Arquimedes Caminero

R

3.50

3.53

36.0

1.14

9.8

Jared Hughes

R

2.57

2.83

35.0

1.14

6.7

Antonio Bastardo

L

4.18

3.80

23.2

1.31

8.7

Vance Worley

R

3.51

3.59

59.0

1.39

5.8

Deolis Guerra

R

0.00

1.08

5.0

1.20

9.0

The Indians luck out as they miss both Burnett and the good lefty, our old friend Liriano. They open with Morton who joined the rotation in late May. Other than the Nationals destroying him for nine runs in the first two starts ago, he has been pretty good. He had back to back starts of 7 innings and no runs before the Nationals game. He has never faced the Indians. Locke is the more hittable lefty in the rotation. But he had a lucky June, 2.96 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 6.3 K/9 in 27.1 innings. He also has never faced Cleveland. The highly touted Cole has been superb this year. In june he has challenged Burnett to be the ace of the staff. He had a 2.35 ERA. 1.23 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 in 38.1 innings, winning four of six starts.

Melancon as a closer does not strike out many guys, but allows very few baserunners. He hasn't blown a save since April. Watson is anything but a LOOGY. He has a superb 456 OPS against right handed batters in 112 PA.

On the Shelf

  • P Brandon Cumpton [60 day DL], out for season
  • RF Corey Hart [15 day DL], possible July return, on AAA rehab
  • OF Andrew Lambo [60 day DL], no timetable for return
  • P Rob Scahill [15 day DL], no timetable for return
  • IF Justin Sellers [60 day DL], on A+ rehab

Almanac

W

L

Pct

RS

RA

Pythag

2015

-

-

-

-

-

-

2012

1

2

333

9

18

333

Last 5*

5

4

556

35

36

487

Last 10*

8

7

533

61

65

471

All-Time

16

17

485

153

154

497

Prediction: So which road team arrives in PNC Park? Is it the Hyde team from Baltimore? Is it the Jekyll squad from Tampa? Or is it something in the middle. The bats seem to have awoken a bit and the first two pitching matchups do favor the Tribe so I will lean towards a 2-1 series win.