Let’s not pull any punches: regardless of today’s outcome, the Pirates are going to wrap up two straight weeks of playing the Reds and Brewers with either a 4-10 or 3-11 record. The word to describe this is “disastrous,” even in April. Games in April count, too. The Pirates close out an eight-game homestand against those two teams this afternoon. The homestand started on an encouraging note last Thursday with a crushing blowout win against the Brewers, but the Pirates followed that game up with six straight turds. They should be on a six-game losing streak right now, but the Reds didn’t accept the gift-wrapped-with-a-bow game that the Pirates tried to hand them on Monday night. This has been an embarrassing stretch of baseball for the Pirates.
This is part of the beauty of the baseball season, of course. It’s April 24th and the Pirates have 121 baseball games ahead of them. The Pirates are not the third-worst team in the National League right now, even if that’s where their record puts them at the minute. A 4-10 stretch is rough, but 9-13 isn’t so hard to balance out.
Of course, the Pirates need to start playing better to do that. That can happen today, even if this homestand or this stretch against the Reds and Brewers can’t really be salvaged. Getting Wandy Rodriguez off of the mound (at least for now) seems like a good place to start. As has been speculated since the early part of the week, it will indeed be Brandon Cumpton that starts in his place today. Cumpton’s made three starts with Indianapolis this year, he’s gone at least six innings in all of them, and he’s held his opponents scoreless twice. You almost certainly remember Cumpton from his five mostly-excellent spot starts (two against the Reds) with the Pirates last year.
If you don’t remember much else about him,Pirates Prospects put a post up about Cumpton yesterday that discussed his repertoire and his upside. He throws a lot of fastballs that have some nice sink to them (this is shocking for a Pirate pitching prospect, I know) and he’s got solid fastball command (again, crazy talk, right?). His breaking ball and change-up are less refined, which is why he doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters and why he’s never been a top-flight pitching prospect, but he’s improved quite a bit from 2012 to 2014 and it does seem like he might have a big league future as a back-end starter. The Pirates need someone that can give them six innings without letting the game get out of hand, and Cumpton is capable of that.
First pitch today is at 12:35. Tony Cingrani starts for the Reds.