RHP Jeff Samardzija (6-8, 4.57 ERA) takes on LHP Erik Bedard (5-10, 4.55 ERA) tonight. Samardzija has won one of his last eight starts, though his last three games have been solid. He gets his Ks, but has been bitten by control and long ball problems, so plate discipline by the often free-swinging Bucs is tonight's theme. Bedard won his last outing against Colorado, but is still looking for a return to his crisp early season form. The contest starts at 7:05 and will be aired on Root Sports.
The Cubs can't be coming to town in a very good mood. They were just swept by the Cards and were outscored 23-1 in the three-game series, going scoreless for the last 25 innings. The Bucs are on their first five game roll of the season. The next ten games for Pittsburgh are against Chicago and Houston, and it's a golden opportunity to make hay in the division. And they have to; the Reds schedule is soft, too - their next ten are against Houston, Colorado and San Diego, not exactly a murderer's row. The Cards have four against LA at home, then visit the Cubs and Rox for three game sets.
Having said that, the Cubs will throw three decent pitchers at the Bucs in Samardzija, Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster (if he's still on the team), and have some bats that can cause damage from guys like Soriano, LaHair, Rizzo and Castro. And Chi-Town had won 5-of-6 before running into a St. Louie buzzsaw. The Pirates have to maintain their "one game at a time" focus or could be walking into a trap series. Nothing is a gimme in MLB, and as the Gunner Bob Prince would say, beware of the "hidden vigorish" where all things even out sooner or later.
The lineup: Alex Presley LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones RF, Casey McGehee 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Rod Barajas C, Clint Barmes SS, Erik Bedard P.
- Alex Presley has led off the first inning by reaching base in four straight games and scoring a run in the last three opening frames.
- Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry have thrown out 8-of-62 runners trying to steal (12.9 %), the worst figure in the majors.
- Pittsburgh's five game winning streak is its longest since mid-September, 2010.
- The Pirates have won eight straight series at home and have gone 13-2-1 in their last 16 sets.
- The Bucs are 54-40 and 1/2 game from the Central lead while the top dog in the wild card race going into tonight's game. On this date last year, they were 51-46 and one game out. The team's 2011 highwater mark was July 19th, when they were 51-44 and had a 1/2 lead in the division after James McDonald won a 1-0 duel with the Reds' Max Leake at PNC.
- Yesterday, the Pirates became the sixth MLB franchise to reach 9,700 victories. The Giants, Cubs, Braves, Dodgers and Yankees are the other six clubs.
- Hard to believe, but Jeff Karstens and Evan Meek are the only 2008 MLB Pirates still standing in Pittsburgh. But Dave Littlefield still has a few fingerprints left on the club - Cutch, Neil Walker, Alex Presley, Brad Lincoln, Jared Hughes and Tony Watson are on the big team now, while Starling Marte, Rudy Owens and Duke Welker are on the 40-man roster.
- LHP Doug Slaten, who had a cup of coffee in Pittsburgh, continues to mow them down at Indy. He's allowed just one earned run in 31 IP this season for an 0.29 ERA
- This day in history: In 1991, Buc bench coach Jeff Banister made his MLB debut and singled off Atlanta’s Dan Petry in his only big league at bat. Banister is a Pirate lifer with 25 straight years in the organization since being drafted in 1986. In the same game, rookie John "Rock" Wehner, now a Root Sports broadcaster, went 5-for-5 to become the first 'Burgh rook since Richie Zisk in 1973 to collect five hits.