The Pirates are 15-20 on the road in 2012, and in general much of their ugliest baseball has come away from PNC Park. This week they play four games in Philadelphia against the battered-but-still-dangerous Phillies (Chasey Utley may be back on Wednesday) and three games against the division rival Cardinals in St. Louis. This is an important stretch of games for the Pirates; if they get through it they’ve got seven at PNC games before the All-Star break against the Astros and the talented but generally offensively punchless Giants. If the Pirates want to prove that they belong in the discussion for a playoff spot this year, going 4-3 on this road trip would be a great place to start.
The good news is that they’re not going to have to see Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee on full rest in Philadelphia this week, because they both pitched in a double-header yesterday. Today Jeff Karstens makes his return to the rotation (the only corresponding move was Bryan Morris’s demotion; a second move to make room for Drew Sutton will come tomorrow) against Joe Blanton. This is definitely a winnable game for the Pirates; Karstens rehab went so well that he’s skipping his last rehab start to pitch tonight while Blanton’s starts have basically been home run derbies this year. An offensive outburst would be a great way to start this road trip.
First pitch tonight is at 7:05.