Friday, September 14th, 2012
Courtesy of MLB.com
Friday at 1:20pm CT – James McDonald vs. Chris Rusin
McDonald’s ERA has been on a steady rise since it stood at 2.37 at the All-Star break. J-Mac had an early-season stretch of eight-plus strikeouts in seven of eight starts, and has hit that figure only once in his last 17 starts. Following a rough outing, Rusin showed an ability to bounce back on Sunday vs. the Pirates, allowing one run on five hits over five innings. The lefty was able to mix up his pitches well and had good command of his offspeed stuff.
Saturday at 12:05pm CT – Wandy Rodriguez vs. Jason Berken
Rodriguez can’t pitch better than he did on Monday, when he took a one-hitter into the seventh in Cincinnati. The Pirates lost after he got the hook after 89 pitches, and he’ll be out to make up for that disappointment. This would have been Jeff Samardzija’s spot, but he was shut down after Saturday’s game because he had reached his maximum innings. Berken, acquired off waivers from the Orioles on Friday, was 5-6 with a 3.50 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk.
Sunday at 1:20pm CT – Jeff Locke vs. Chris Volstad
Locke makes his seventh big league start, and ninth appearance, still looking for his first win. The Bucs are counting on him using September to stake a claim to a 2013 rotation job. After allowing one run over five innings on Monday against the Astros, Volstad said he’s felt like a different pitcher since returning from Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 4. He has a 4.08 ERA in his past eight starts.
Monday at 7:05pm CT – Kevin Correia vs. Travis Wood
(No preview provided for Correia.) The left-hander has allowed one run over his last 13 2/3 innings. In each of his last two starts, he opened with four hitless innings before giving up a hit in the fifth. Since Aug. 22, he has a 2.43 ERA in 33 1/3 innings.
I wrote earlier this season that I thought it was acceptable to jump aboard the Pirates’ bandwagon, given their recent stretch of futility, and the likelihood that a trip to the playoffs for them might help keep the Cardinals out of the postseason. It appears that was the kiss of death for Pittsburgh. They’re currently on the fringes of the Wild Card hunt, and they’ve don’t seem to be able to make up much ground on the flagging Cardinals or the rest of the field.
In fact, they’ve lost their last six games, a streak kicked off by their sweep at the hands of the Cubs last weekend. As a Cubs fan, I’m hoping that losing streak lasts for the Pirates, at least through the next four games. But I also want those back-to-back throttlings by the Cubs to help the Pirates right their ship, and sail into the playoffs ahead of St. Louis.
Because as much as I want the Cubs to win these games against Pittsburgh (more on that this afternoon), I’m desperate to see them, or really anyone keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs. With their history of getting hot at the right time, and the flaws evidenced by most of the other prospective postseason teams in the NL, it’s conceivable they could make another “magical” run to the World Series. That’s not me saying they currently look like a World Series-caliber team–they don’t. But I’ve learned not to put anything past them at this point.
Bottom line, I want the Cubs to stay hot and sweep the Pirates for a second weekend in a row. But if they don’t, and these games help propel Pittsburgh past St. Louis and into the playoffs, I’ll get over the losses. It’s a Battle vs. War scenario to me, and the only remaining victory for Cubs fans is a Cardinal defeat.
Series Prediction: The Cubs win all four, but the Pirates’ losses are their last of the season, as they make a historic march to the postseason.
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