To put it simply, now would be a very good time for the Pirates to start playing better against their NL Central rivals. I wrote about the eight-teams-for-five-spots race in the National League this afternoon, but it wasn’t really all that long ago that the Marlins and and Rockies were in the thick of things, too. If the Pirates are going to stick in this race as it starts to thin out, they really do have to play better against the division.
I think the place to start with that is two of three from the Reds, and with Johnny Cueto looming on Sunday, I’d feel a lot better if the Pirates got those two wins to open the series. Latos has looked pretty good since coming off of the disabled list in mid-June (he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow over the winter, then hurt his knee in camp) and his last three starts have been really excellent, but his strikeout rate is way down this year and his velocity is not particularly close to where it’s been in the past. It’s possible that he’s a little more vulnerable than he’s been in the past. Jeff Locke goes for the Pirates. Locke is coming off of two straight eight-inning starts, though they did come against the Diamondbacks and the Phillies. Still, Locke has been really impressive since coming back from the minors this year, and the Pirates could use a big start from him tonight.
First pitch is at 7:10.