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Series #12: Athletics at Pirates - Pillaging Some Wins

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Texas Rangers Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

In what has hopefully been the low point of the entire 2019 season for the A’s, having lost six straight games on their road trip to fall to 4-11 overall while on the road. The A’s are now the only team in their division with a negative run differential, and are now comfortably in last place thanks to a surge of strong play from the Angels. There is plenty of time for the team to turn things around, and the team last year got hot as the weather did, so a poor April certainly isn’t a death knell for the season.

The A’s will get their first chance of turning things around against the 14-14 Pirates. Entering the series, the Pirates have won two straight games against the Texas Rangers, however, prior to those two victories, the Pirates were mired in an eight game losing streak. During their losing streak, the Pirates only managed to score more than two runs twice, and the team completely erased its strong start to the season.

Collectively, the Pirates’ offense has generated a team OPS of .666. Their twenty three home runs hit is the worst in the National League and the second worst to the Tigers in the entire league. On the flip side, the collective pitching staff of the Pirates has been much better. Pittsburgh’s 3.49 ERA is top-5 in all of baseball, and the twenty nine home runs allowed is the third fewest in all of baseball. The Pirates have also surrendered the fewest total walks in all of baseball, with just seventy eight walks given up in twenty eight games.

The Pirates’ pitching staff matches up very well against a homer-happy offense like that of the A’s. While the team doesn’t get too many strikeouts, they thrive on inducing poor contact. And unfortunately, the A’s are matching up the three starting pitchers who have done the best at limiting hard contact. While Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer are the big names in the rotation, it is actually Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, and Jordan Lyles who have carried the starting pitching. Musgrove, in particular, has been spectacular on the year, sporting a 0.89 WHIP and a 1.54 ERA over five starts and thirty five innings pitched.

One would be remiss not to mention the back end of the Pirates’ bullpen as well, as it has been nearly perfect in April. Lefties Francisco Liriano and Felipe Vasquez have combined to toss nearly twenty five innings and have only allowed one earned run. Vasquez, in particular, has struck out twenty three batters in thirteen innings pitched, posing as one of the few strikeout pitchers the team has. The higher WHIPs of Liriano and Vasquez suggest the two have been dancing in and out of danger, at least a little bit, and that their nearly perfect track record won’t necessarily last. Keone Kela was acquired to be the guy at the end, but so far this season has struggled in high pressure situations and has lost his spot to Liriano and Vasquez, at least for now.

While the offense hasn’t been setting the world on fire, there have been some standout players in the first month of the season. Josh Bell is showing signs of coming into his own and leads the team in home runs with six and RsBI with twenty one. His OPS is currently .953. Veteran Melky Cabrera has continued to hit, sporting an .870 OPS thanks to a .341 batting average and a strong batted ball profile. Rookie Bryan Reynolds, recently acquired from the Giants, has only played in nine games so far this season, but he has made the most of his opportunity. Reynolds has a .433 OBP and a .724 SLG, with one home run that wound up being an extra-innings game winner.

The A’s will need to prove that they can perform on the road, but going up against Pittsburgh’s strong rotation will make that task difficult, as will the monster with two left hands at the back end of the bullpen. Losing the DH will also make things more difficult for the offense. There will be no presumptions of a sweep this series. First, the A’s need to focus on not embarrassing themselves.

Potential Lineup

Adam Frazier - 2B

Starling Marte - CF

Gregory Polanco - LF

Josh Bell - 1B

Melky Cabrera - RF

Colin Moran - 3B

Elias Diaz - C

Cole Tucker - SS

Pitcher’s Spot

Pitching Matchups

Brett Anderson vs Joe Musgrove

Chris Bassitt vs Trevor Williams

Frankie Montas vs Jordan Lyles

Game Information

Game #34: Friday, May 3rd at 4:05

Game #35: Saturday, May 4th at 4:05

Game #36: Sunday, May 5th at 10:35

Friday’s and Sunday’s games are on NBCSCA. Saturday’s game is on FS1.