The Pirates played better baseball on their just-concluded nine-game homestand. It wasn’t really great baseball (there were some pretty great spots, I suppose), but it was “good enough” baseball. The season was on the verge of completely falling apart ten days ago, and they’ve somehow managed to pull it back a little bit from there.
One of the problems with starting as poorly as the Pirates did is that there’s really very little room for error, though. By the strictest definition of the word “need,” I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the Pirates need to win at least two games against the Brewers in this Miller Park series this week, but the Pirates do need to win two games against the Brewers this week, if that makes sense. Unless the Pirates get on a hot streak to erase most of that 4-15 stretch, every series needs to take them forwards and not backwards. That goes double for division series.
Gerrit Cole goes for the Pirates tonight. His last start against the Giants was pretty close to spectacular, save the existence of Brandon Belt. His last start against the Brewers was also pretty excellent. You certainly remember it: he tossed eight shutout innings and provoked Carlos Gomez into an Easter Sunday brawl. I really think that Cole is on the verge of kicking things into another gear; let’s hope that he keeps moving in that direction tonight.
On the Brewers front, Ryan Braun returns from the disabled list tonight and Carlos Gomez’s suspension for his part in the previously mentioned brawl will not start tonight, as some speculated, since he’s in the lineup.
Wily Peralta starts for the Brewers. His 2.14 ERA is excellent, but his strikeout rate and home run rate indicate that he may be due for some regression. He was excellent in his first start against the Pirates this year, though, holding them to two runs and four hits in seven innings of work way back on April 11th. I got my Brewers starters mixed up: Marco Estrada goes tonight. Pretty much all the same stuff about ERA being lower than FIP his first start against the Pirates being excellent applies here, though Estrada hasn’t been quite as good as Peralta this year.
Starling Marte is still out of the lineup for the Pirates. The first pitch tonight is at 8:05.