Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day: Jeff Locke v Justin Nicolino, Lineup, Series Preview, Notes

Tonight: The series starts at 7:10 at Marlins Park. It will be aired by Root Sports, 93.7 The Fan and the MLB Network for out of market fans.

Pitchers: Jeff Locke (3-3, 5.08) takes on Justin Nicolino (2-2, 4.37) in a southpaw duel. Locke is trying to reinvent himself into a guy that challenges hitters, and hasn't walked more than two batters in his last six starts. But it comes at a cost - Jeff has become a fly ball pitcher. He's given up six homers in his last four outings, so he's trying to find that fine line between working off the edges and a hit-it-if-you-can mentality. Still, he's been solid lately, and looking for three straight wins for the first time in his Bucco career. Locke is 3-2/3.00  in seven career starts against Miami. The 24 year old Nicolino hasn't gotten past the sixth in his past six starts (he hasn't made it even that far in his past three), or given up fewer than three runs. Like Locke, he doesn't pile up strikeouts, so there should be a lot of balls in play. In his only start versus Pittsburgh, Nicolino gave up two runs while walking four over six innings in a 2-1 loss last August.

Jeff is looking for his third straight W (photo via ESPN)

Lineup: Josh Harrison 2B, Cutch CF, David Freese 1B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, S-Rod SS, Locke P. Josh is finally feelin' his oats and Jordy gets a day off. Prob could use one; he's in a .143 funk over the past week.

Preview: It should be an interesting series. The Bucs face three lefties in the four game set, and red hot JJ usually gets a seat against southpaws (not that JHK & Freeser on the corners is too shabby); it could also be that Gregory gets a day off in Miami, too, so this looks like a S-Rod kinda series. Marcell Ozuna has hit safely in 11 straight games with multiple hits in six of the last seven contests to lead the Marlin attack. Giancola Stanton is expected to return at some point during this series to add some punch (hopefully not tonight; he's owned Jeff in their career meetings.) Pittsburgh has won eight of the last nine matchups with the Fish and taken the season series the last four years, so there's that.

  • The Pirate bullpen woes are shared by the rest of the NL Central. By Fangraph WAR, the five division clubs fill in the bottom 11 spots in baseball. Good hitting, bad pitching, or a dash of both? The diff is in rotations - again, by WAR, the Cubs are #1, the Cards mid-pack, and the Brewers, Bucs and Reds are bottom dwellers.
  • June will be a hot month in the field - the Bucs will host the Angels, Mets, Cards, Giants and Dodgers (LA & SF are 4-game sets) at PNC. They close out the Miami series, visit the Mets and Cubs, play the Rox snow-out game and begin a series in Seattle during the month, too. 
  • Also other good stuff in June - the MLB draft (6/9-11), the Super Two deadline passing by, and often the beginning of the trade season, although Pittsburgh should be involved much more in the first two activities rather than the last. Mid-month should see the minor league pipeline starting to reach the show, with Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, Josh Bell and the gang knockin' on the door.

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