Obviously, last night's game did not go well. Tonight, the Pirates will try to get back on track against Eric Stults and the Padres. If we boil the remaining season down to its simplest form, the Pirates now have four three-game series left in 2013 and if they win two of three in each of those four series, they will finish with 95 wins. It's impossible to say for sure from here, but if the Pirates finish with 95 wins I think their chances of either winning the division or finishing in a tie with the Cardinals are pretty good.
Tonight, Jeff Locke looks to build on his solid performance against the Cubs from last Thursday night. I have not done any sort of detailed analysis, but Locke Hypothesis is that his success is tied pretty closely to his fastball consistency. If you look at the game-by-game velocity charts at Brooks, the 95% confidence interval around Locke's fastball starts to spread out in July, which is the same time that a two-seamer started popping up. That says to me that something about Locke's fastball started changing at mid-season, which I'm guessing lead to the serious lack of control that derailed most of his outings. His start on Saturday doesn't have a two-seamer show up at all, and there's a nice, tight interval for fastball velocity. As I said above, this is only a guess, but if Locke is throwing his fastball consistently at 90-92 and for strikes early on, I think he'll be fine again tonight.
The big news is that Starling Marte will return to the lineup in the leadoff spot tonight. I am honestly a little bit ambivalent about this. On Saturday's broadcast, they talked quite a bit about how Marte won't be pain free until 2014 and that if he's going to play again this year he'll just have to learn how to swing through pain. They then showed video of him hitting in the cage, grimacing. Marte is a transformative player for the offense when he's healthy; his speed and gap power at the top of the lineup are very different from what Jose Tabata offers. When he's struggling, though, he's pretty tough to watch, and I'm concerned that that's the Marte we're going to see while he struggles with the pain in his hand. I suppose he's playing now so that we can find out before the playoffs start.
Eric Stults goes for the Padres. First pitch is at 7:05.