First things first! The kind gentlemen at Productive Outs had me on their podcast last night to talk about the Pirates. You should check it out.
The Pirates have a chance to sweep the Rangers this afternoon, and we're reached a point in the season at which I'm no longer happy to say things like, "Well, the Pirates got the first two in this series, so a win today would be gravy." The Rangers are down right now and the Pirates need to kick them in the ribs today. On Sunday, it seemed like the Pirates would be lucky to get one win in this series. Somehow getting three wins on the road here would be a huge boost before these games against the Cubs and Padres.
Clint Hurdle, apparently, does not agree. Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen combined for the entirety of the Pirates' offense last night, more or less, and they're both on the bench today. Starting Clint Barmes over Mercer, I can understand, since AJ Burnett is pitching and Barmes is a bit stronger defensively, plus Mercer's offensive edge exists mostly against lefties. Putting McCutchen on the bench entirely today? It seems insane to have your best player on the bench at any point in the last 2 1/2 weeks of the season when you're a game back in a divisional race.
Anyway, AJ Burnett was on a nice little run before getting bombed by the Cardinals on Friday. Hopefully he'll have his A-game today, because he may need it. Matt Garza goes for the Rangers and he's been OK for them except for the 10 home runs he's served up in his nine starts. The Pirates, obviously, are pretty familiar with Garza from his time in Chicago. The first pitch this afternoon is at 2:05.