If the Pirates want to win the NL Central, they’ve got to start this weekend

First things first; if you want draft news from today, you should probably just head on over to Pirates Prospects. As always, Tim and his staff have their finger on the pulse of this stuff in a way that I don’t, especially once we get past the first couple of rounds. If you missed it this morning, I wrote a longer piece about the Pirates’ first day strategy.

On to tonight’s game: it’s June and the Pirates have a gigantic series this weekend against the Brewers at PNC Park. The Pirates have shown more of a pulse in the last two weeks and they’ve crept back into the National League’s wild card pack, but if they want to be a part of the National League Central race in any way shape or form in 2014, then they need at least two wins against the Brewers this weekend. They’re opening this series up seven games behind the Brewers, and it is absolutely time to start chewing into that lead if it’s going to happen at any point this season. That’s all there is to it.

That’s part of the reason that everyone assumed Polanco would be called up for this series, I think, but it’s obviously not going to happen tonight (and, I’d guess, probably not for this series, since it’d make a lot of sense to promote him on an off-day if you had that opportunity and much less sense to do so in the middle of a series after not promoting him at the start of it). I suspect that that’s something that will be talked about a lot if the Pirates have trouble scoring runs this weekend, but for now there’s just nothing that can be done about it. The Pirates took three of four from both the Nats and the Dodgers without Polanco; let’s hope they can take two of three from the Brewers at home without him.

Brandon Cumpton makes his first start tonight since getting obliterated by the Dodgers last Saturday. I would imagine that the Pirates are not very strongly tied to Cumpton staying in the rotation if he’s not performing with Vance Worley dominating the IL and Jeff Locke waiting in the wings as well. That means that, simply, he’s going to have to pitch better than he did last Saturday. He’s certainly capable of it, even if it’s not clear that his ceiling is all that high. He’ll face Kyle Lohse tonight. Lohse is coming off of a CGSHO against the Cubs in his last start and he’s generally looked as good as he’s ever looked in the early part of this season. Given the magnitude of this series and the pitching matchup tonight, I am nervous.

First pitch tonight is at 7:05.

Image: Dan K, Flickr

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.