These last two Pirate games have been a lot of things: they’ve been fun to watch, they’ve been heartening, they’ve been solid bullpen outings, and they’ve been a sign that even the Pirates can occasionally find a way to hit a baseball hard and have it not land in a fielder’s glove. The one thing they haven’t really been, though, is well-played by the Pirates. The Pirates have fallen behind in both games, they’ve gotten mediocre starts in both games, and their defense was flat-out horrifying last night. I won’t argue that getting some tallies in the win column was important, given three-week stretch that preceded this series, but if the Pirates are going to somehow get this ship turned around, they’re not going to do it by winning a ton of games like their wins on Friday and Saturday.
Edinson Volquez pitches today for the first time since his first really rough outing of the season last Sunday. Every time Francisco Liriano goes out and lays a stinkbomb on the field like he did last night, finding some way for Volquez to be a productive starter becomes more important for the Pirates. Honestly, it’s still really hard to get a read on the early season results from Volquez. His control has been much, much better than anyone expected, but it’s definitely come at the cost of his strikeouts. His career strikeout percentage is around 20%, this year it’s around 13%. Obviously cutting down on the walks was a big requirement for success for him, but I don’t think he’s going to get away with that strikeout rate, a groundball percentage of ~50%, and a .236 BABIP for much longer. Essentially, he’s off to a nice start with his improved control, but he’s going to need to find a way to maintain that control while starting to ramp his strikeout rate back up towards where it’s been in the past. He’ll face off against Dustin McGowan today, who’s been just brutally bad for the Blue Jays in his five starts this year after relieving last year. I would not be surprised to see another 8-6 game today.
There’s one piece of news that’s also worth noting today: Jeff Locke will be recalled to make Monday’s rain-out necessitated start, not Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy will make another rehab start on Tuesday. We can talk more about Locke before the game tomorrow, but I honestly have no idea what the Pirates are going to do with Rodriguez when they have to stop shunting him off into rehab starts. It’s just hard to see any circumstance in which he’s one of the Pirates’ five best starters, and that would probably be true even if we crossed one or two of the existing starters off of the Pirates’ depth chart.
Anway, the first pitch today is at 1:35. 13-18 still isn’t very good, but it’d be better than 12-19. I think it’s time for 2014’s first three-game winning streak.