Yesterday’s rainout had a pretty unfortunate side-effect for the Pirates; their only scheduled off-day between May 13th and June 12th was today, and they will instead play a make-up game against the Rockies at 12:35 (they had another scheduled off-day in this stretch on June 9th, which will also be filled by a makeup game against the Rockies, though that one is far more intrusive due to the resultant travel schedule).
This doesn’t really change anything about how the Pirates need to play these games (lots of wins against the bad teams in the front of this stretch and then enough wins against the Mets and Cardinals at the end of it for the games against the Cubs that follow this stretch to mean something), but it’s creating a grueling stretch of play for the Pirates at a time when they’re still trying to find themselves.
We’re basically straddling the arbitrary demarcation line that the Pirates drew for themselves in 2014 and 2015; both of those Pirate teams bottomed out on May 20th and began strong stretches of play on May 21st. Last year’s team in particular seemed to almost throw a light switch on that date that took them from frustratingly mediocre to maybe the best team in baseball over the season’s final 121 games. This year’s team seemed to be threatening to throw that switch in early May before the first Cub series, and they might be in the process of doing so now, starting with last Sunday’s shutout win against the Cubs.
Starting today, the Cardinals and Cubs play each other, which means that if the Pirates continue winning against teams they should beat (the Diamondbacks are up next), they’ll either put some space between themselves and the Cards (currently they’re one game up) or make up ground on the Cubs (currently six back). Both of those are desirable outcomes.
Ryan Vogelsong gets the start today, since Juan Nicasio warmed up and threw an inning yesterday. Wilfredo Boscan will back him up, and Nicasio will not pitch until his next scheduled start. Jordan Lyles starts for the Rockies. Lyles was very bad in four April starts and has since spent all of May until now in the minors, so swapping Chad Bettis for him is probably in the Pirates’ best interests. First pitch is at 12:35.