The Red Hot Pittsburgh Pirates (that feels awesome to type) get this weekend’s interleagueless series in Washington. The Nationals were similarly hot, except that they had their weird Jim Riggleman thing go down last week and after rolling off 12 wins in 13 games, they’ve now lost four of five and are 0-3 in the Davey Johnson era.
Charlie Morton returns to the mound for the Pirates last night after being skipped the last time through the rotation. I wrote a couple posts (one, two) earlier in the week trying to pinpoint his struggles. I’ll stick with the conclusion that I reached in those posts: for Morton to be successful tonight, the Pirates are going to have to turn some balls hit by lefties into outs. I don’t see a Nats lineup posted yet, but I’d have to think they’re going to try and cram lefties into it given the results that’s produced against Morton of late.
The Nats are countering with our old friend, Tom Gorzelanny. The Pirates’ lineup against lefties has been pretty solid of late, with Matt Diaz actually contributing a bit to the offense. I also appreciate Clint Hurdle keeping Walker out of the lineup again against a lefty. Even though he said yesterday that sitting Walker was precautionary, it’s hard to miss Walker’s .195/.268/.264 line from the right side of the plate against lefties this year and until he can improve that, guys like Harrison and d’Arnaud should be in the lineup. Actually, I’m weirdly a bit sad to not see Brandon Wood at second or third tonight after his homer last night and his power surge in June (all three of his homers came in June with a .463 SLG), though I’ll never actually complain about a young guy like d’Arnaud or Harrison playing.
The Pirates have an extremely tough stretch of schedule at the end of July, but the only way that stretch can be a test for the team is if they take care of business against teams like the Nationals at the beginning of the month. First pitch tonight is at 7:05. It’s July 1, and the Pirates are two games out of first and playing meaningful baseball. Enjoy it.