McDonald's velocity is quite noticeably down. That has led some to speculate that he has an injury waiting to be diagnosed, although he chalks it up to a lack of early-season arm strength. If he's really just building and getting ready to step up, the Braves are good candidates to do it against. Lifetime, J-Mac is 3-0 versus them with a 1.73 ERA in four starts, piling up 28 K in 26 innings.
After seven years as a Pirate mainstay, Maholm has found his groove; he's 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA against his old team in three starts. Since he's been gone, Maholm posted a 13-11/3.76 line last year with the Cubs and Bravos and hasn't been scored on in his first three outings this season. Better D? More mature? Change of scenery? Who knows - but since he's left the Steel City, he's had it going on from the bump, and when better to have that happen than during the walk year of your contract?
The first pitch is scheduled to be tossed at 7:05 and the game will be broadcast by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.
Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Jose Tabata RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russell Martin 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Mike McKenry C, Clint Barmes SS and James McDonald P.
Travis Snider, the Bucs hottest hitter, is out of the lineup. Pedro sits down after homering in the past two games and Russell Martin takes over at third, a position he hasn't played since 2008 at LA. Gaby and The Fort are in against a lefty; The Kid drops to sixth.
It does make sabermetric sense; Maholm has a big overall lefty/righty spread (.221/.289). And who'd thunk it? Clint Barmes is 15-for-34 against PM with two home runs, three doubles and nine RBI.
Brave lineup: B.J. Upton CF, Jason Heyward RF, Justin Upton LF, Evan Gattis C, Chris Johnson 1B, Dan Uggla 2B, Juan Francisco 3B, Andrelton Simmons SS and Paul Maholm P.
Francisco is the only new face; he goes to third for Gattis, who in turn gets behind the dish to replace Gerald Laird.
- Pitching 101: Tom Bragg at Pirates Prospects charted Wandy last night, and noted that he faced 21 batters. He started 15 of them off with strikes.
- Travis Snider's start can be chalked up to patience. So far, he's gone after 21% of pitches outside the strike zone, down nearly 10% from his career average. As a result of laying off the chase pitches, he's gotten more walks, fewer whiffs, and his contact rate is around 80%. It's a simple formula: the more balls in play, the more hits.
- Garrett Jones has 45 PNC Park bombs, tied for third with Brian Giles. He's chasing down Jason Bay (61) and Craig Wilson (47) on the all-time hometown blast list.
- Pedro is 1-for-24 with 13 strikeouts against lefties since September 23rd. We'd propose that he doesn't sit more against southpaws, ala Garrett Jones, because of the lack of Pirate depth at third rather than his threat as a thunder stick. El Toro is pretty much the only egg in Pittsburgh's hot corner basket; Hurdle is using Martin there today. And that means Clint would rather have Mike McKenry swing against a lefty than Pedro - and The Fort has a .218 lifetime BA against LHP in limited at-bats.
- Today marks Paul Maholm's 100th career start at PNC Park.
- The Braves have been red hot without the services of 1B Freddie Freeman and C Brian McCann, both on the DL. Freeman is expected back early next week.
- Atlanta is 13-0 when hitting a home run. They haven't scored in the three games when they haven't gone long; apparently GM Frank Wren has built the club per Earl Weaver's three-run homer blueprint. And the way they're playing now, who needs small ball?
- The Curve play a DH tonight. Both Francisco Liriano and Jose Contreras are scheduled to make rehab appearances, with Liriano starting the six o'clock opener.