The Pirates and Dodgers are two of the eight teams participating in what seems like it’s going to be a mad dash for five National League playoff spots this year, but you’d hardly know it from tonight’s lineups. Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez are both on the shelf for the Dodgers with various ailments, while the Pirates are sitting Gregory Polanco and Pedro Alvarez against lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. Polanco and Alvarez will be replaced by Michael Martinez and Josh Harrison in the lineup, respectively. I’m not questioning the wisdom of sitting Alvarez or Polanco against a tough lefty, of course, but it does seem to me like the net improvement on the lineup by putting Michael Martinez in a corner outfield spot is likely to be minimal. In fact, since Martinez is generally an infielder, putting him in the outfield seems like it’s something that’s downright harmful, but hey, Chris Stewart hit twice as many doubles yesterday as he had all season leading up to that point, so what do I know?
Edinson Volquez will, at least, benefit from not having to face Puig or Ramirez. I really have no idea what to expect from Volquez in the second half of this season; his walk rate is in the “Low for Edinson Volquez but not so low as to be a weason in of itself” territory, especially with his low strikeout rate this year. Even in really nice-looking four-start run he’s on right now (0.90 ERA and 30 innings pitched over those four starts, all wins), he’s only got 18 strikeouts in those 30 innings and nine walks. It feels like there’s probably a reckoning coming for him, once teams figure out whatever it is in his approach that’s changed recently. It’s possible that that won’t be tonight, given the current state of the Dodger lineup.
First pitch tonight is at 7:05. The Cardinals are off and the Brewers play the Reds, so a Pirate win will make up ground on someone and a Pirate loss will cede ground to someone.