Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jeff Locke v Josh Smith; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Jeff Locke (4-3, 4.74) takes the bump against Josh Smith to open the Reds series. Locke has strengthened his hold on the final rotation spot with back-to-back quality starts. Jeff has been fairly solid in eight starts against the Redlegs, posting a 2-2/3.14 slash, but hasn't beaten them in almost two years. One promising stat: the Pirates are 13-3 in Locke’s last 16 home starts.

Jeff Locke (photo Associated Press)
Smith will be making his MLB debut as Johnny Cueto, long time Bucco-killer, was pushed back from tonight's scheduled start for rest purposes and will miss the series. Smith was 1-3 with a 3.56 ERA in eight starts at AAA Louisville and overall 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts among three levels of ball this season. Josh is a fastball, curveball, slider guy without a lot of velocity; his hook is his go-to pitch. He's more or less a stop-gap; Smith isn't considered a top 30 prospect within the Reds organization.

The game starts at 7:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup - Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Josh Harrison 3B, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, Locke P.

The Kid is back, and the order is shuffled a bit to accommodate him  and make up for JHK's sit down time. It's back to the future with Gregory and Starling at the top of the order.

The Bucs catch a big break with Cueto missing the series and possibly Aroldis Chapman (paternity leave), too, along with injured Redlegs Devin Mesoraco, Zack Cozart and Tony Cingrani. But don't count those victory chickens as hatched quite yet. Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips have proven to be plenty enough to derail the Pirates on any given night. Cincy already has taken 5-of-6 from Pittsburgh, so the Bucs best not sleep on them...

  • The Pirates have won six straight games at PNC Park and 12 of their last 14 at home.
  • The long ball could be a key to this series. Pittsburgh has only hit 54 homers this year, 25th in MLB, while Cincinnati ranks sixth with 82 home runs.
  • Mark the Shark has 10 saves this month, a club record for June. The previous high mark was set by Joel Hanrahan with nine in 2011.
  • Johnny Cueto, the Reds primo deadline bait, has been dealing with a stiff elbow that caused him to be skipped a turn in the rotation last month. It makes sense that Cincy would treat him with TLC considering the return he should garner if healthy next month.
  • Jameson Taillon's rehab from TJ surgery is moving along. He's going to work some innings for the Bucs' GCL Rookie-League team now after scrimmaging at Pirate City. EDIT - that start was scratched; he had "abdominal pain" which doesn't sound like too good a thing.
  • Clay Holmes, another Bucco pitcher bitten with the TJ bug, made his first start since 2013 for the GCL Pirates. Looked good too, tossing 55 pitches in 3-2/3 innings. It'll be good to start getting that young depth built back up.
  • Diego Moreno, 27, acquired by the Yankees from the Bucs in the 2012 trade for AJ Burnett, was called up Monday.The righty reliever was 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA this season at AAA Scranton.
  • Another ex-Bucco prospect, OF Alex Dickerson (the 3rd round draft pick was w/Pittsburgh from 2011-13) is slashing .314/5/37 at AAA El Paso for the Padres, who traded Jaff Decker and Miles Mokolas for him. The 25 year old was injured most of 2014 but has bounced back strong and is on San Diego's 40-man roster.

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