Vanimal took a first inning beating during his last appearance, then strung together a decent outing. He's not the most toolsy guy; when his stuff flattens out instead of sinking and stays upstairs, the batter's box turns into Cape Kennedy in full launch mode. But that hasn't happened often, and hopefully he'll climb back on the bar stool with a strong outing today.
He doesn't have a great track record against the Brewers. Vance is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three career starts against Milwaukee, all as a starter for the Phillies. But he hasn't faced them since August, 2012, so we'll see how he fares today.
Fiers, after a bullpen callup in June, threw strong ball at AAA Nashville and stepped into the rotation when Matt Garza went down. Since then, he's 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA. Fiers has 25 strikeouts and three walks in that 21 inning span, giving up two runs and eight hits. He throws a fastball, cutter, curve and change, with the heater averaging just 88. Fiers depends on filling up the strike zone, keeping the ball down, and a little deception; his ball is hard to pick up out of his hand.
The good news is that he's just 1-3 against the Bucs with a 6.64 ERA in six outings (four starts). Two of those losses came last year, one in relief and the other as a starter.
The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Pedro 1B, Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS and Worley P. Pedro & Polanco in; we're surprised Russ didn't get the usual night-to-day blow.
The game starts at 2:10 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
- Russ Martin leads all MLB catchers in OBP (.414), is third in hitting (.292), fifth in RBI (51) and leads NL backstops in RISP (.382). Martin also shares the league lead in fielding percentage (.997), having made just two errors in 634 chances, and is tied for second with 20 caught stealings
- Josh Harrison's stick has been the big news, but his glove has been pretty solid, too. He has a UZR/150 of 9.1 at third, 4.8 in the outfield and 4.6 at second (don't ask about short, lol). For comparison, Pedro's is -19.8 at the hot corner, The Kid's -16.6 at second and Travis at -14.4 in the pasture.
- Pittsburgh is four games behind the Brew Crew in the NL Central and 3-1/2 behind the Cards for the top wild card spot. They're 1-1/2 games behind the Giants and 1/2 game in back of the Braves in the race for the second wild card position.
- The Pirates won four consecutive games over two series at Miller Park last season, but a win this afternoon would give them their first three-game sweep in Milwaukee since the 2004 season (April 30 - May 2).
- The Bucs lead all MLB teams with 49 pinch hits and 35 pinch-hit RBI.