The Pirates are one of the season’s early surprises. Thought to still be in the throes of a rebuild, they instead started the year on an absolute tear. They peaked in late April when they had a record of 20-8 and sat 1.5 games up in the NL Central.
Pittsburgh comes to Camden Yards this weekend still in first place in the NL Central. While the lead has shrunk to just half a game, it’s incredible they have a lead at all considering their recent form. They have won just once in their last 10 games. That included sweeps at the hands of the Rays and Blue Jays.
They are currently dealing with some injuries. Vince Velasquez is one of their better starting pitchers, but has been out since May 4 with elbow inflammation. Ji-Man Choi has a strained Achilles that will keep sidelined until June. But the biggest loss, by far, is Oneil Cruz, who fractured his left ankle in early April and will not return until August.
Bryan Reynolds and Andrew McCutchen are the names you know on offense, and both have been good this year. Reynolds got his $100 million extension in April and is already proving his value with a .297/.338/.522 batting line. McCutchen looks like his vintage self with a 130 wRC+ and seven home runs. Jack Suwinski may be their most dangerous hitter, though. He’s a three true outcomes type of player that barrels up everything he swings at and can really move on the basepaths.
Speed is an important element of Pittsburgh’s game. They lead MLB with 48 stolen bases, and they are tied for second with nine triples. Ji Hwan Bae, a rookie, tops the team with 14 swipes, the third-most in the league. Reynolds, Suwinski, and Ke’Bryan Hayes have five apiece.
David Bednar is their star in the bullpen. His ERA for the season is just 0.60, and he has allowed runs in only two of his 15 appearances. The righty issues 0.60 walks per nine innings pitched, and he is yet to allow a home run on the year.
Game 1: Friday, May 12th, 7:05 p.m., MASN 2 & MLB Network
RHP Kyle Bradish (1-1, 5.95 ERA) vs. RHP Johan Oviedo (2-3, 5.59 ERA)
Bradish is still trying to find his groove this year. His start in Atlanta felt like progress. Against a great lineup he went five innings and allowed five hits and three runs while walking two and striking out four. His season numbers are inflated right now due to a bad game against Boston and his early IL stint. His hard hit rate and BABIP (.361) should start to even out with another solid start or two, which will make his top line numbers more appealing.
Oviedo’s season has come undone a bit in his last three starts. Prior to that, he owned a 2.22 ERA and had 25 strikeouts over 24.1 innings. But since April 25 he has a 12.08 ERA with eight strikeouts and 17 earned runs over 12.2 innings. His batting average against in that stretch is .397.
Game 2: Saturday, May 13th, 7:05 p.m., MASN 2
RHP Tyler Wells (2-1, 3.15 ERA) vs. RHP Roansy Contreras (3-3, 4.74 ERA)
Once again Tyler Wells looks like the Orioles’ best starting pitcher in the first half of the season. He went five strong last weekend in Atlanta, allowing just one run and striking out four. There will always be some concern about a contact-oriented pitcher, and we are seeing that with Wells allowing the highest home run rate of his brief career.
Contreras is having a tough stretch. He has served up nine runs over 10.1 innings in his last two starts. Walks have been an issue: seven in those two starts and 4.5 walks per nine innings this season. The young righty does not give up many home runs, so this may be the game where the Orioles feature their ability to manufacture runs.
Game 3: Sunday, May 14th, 1:35 p.m., MASN 2
RHP Kyle Gibson (4-2, 4.40 ERA) vs. RHP Mitch Keller (4-1, 2.72 ERA)
The Orioles veteran ace looked much better against the Rays in his last start. After getting knocked around by the Royals the week before, he held the powerful Tampa offense to two runs over six frames. So far, the 35-year-old has given the O’s exactly what he was brought in to do.
Keller has looked every bit like the “Opening Day starter” label he earned in the spring. He is coming off of his best start of the season, a complete game shutout of the Rockies in which he struck out eight and got the Pirates their only win this month. Over his last three starts he has compiled 26 strikeouts in 20 innings while issuing just three walks.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Pirates?
This poll is closed
0 (get swept)
3 (do the sweeping!)