Between last night's easy win and today's Justin Morneau trade, there's an awful lot of good feelings around the Pirates right now. That's all well and good and not inappropriate, but let's not forget this: there is some huge baseball to be played this weekend. The Pirates still need one more win to make this into a series win and ensure that they leave Pittsburgh with a share of first place in the NL Central, and that's been the goal for this series all along.
Tonight, AJ Burnett gets his turn on the mound against Lance Lynn of the Cardinals. This is the third time we're seeing this exact same pitching matchup in just about a month; it happened first in the double-header at PNC, then again at Busch Stadium in the middle of August. Both of those games were decided in extra innings. Burnett was excellent in the double-header game (as was Lynn), but he's been up and down a bit since then — he dominated the Rockies in one start, then got roughed up by them the next time out. He pitched really poorly against the Cardinals in St. Louis, then shut down the Padres in San Diego, then turned in a kind of "meh" start against the Giants. The long and short of it is: I don't really know what to expect from him tonight. It seems to me that he's running out of gas fairly early on in a lot of his starts and that Clint Hurdle has him on a leash that's about a batter or two too long, so if he gets through five or six, I think I'd be ready to pull him at the first sign of trouble tonight.
Lynn pitched really well in the double-header, but not so well in the game at Busch (you'll remember that he spotted the Pirates a 4-0 lead, which Burnett immediately coughed uo). In fact, the second part of his August has not been so great; he's given up four runs in each of his last three starts.
Justin Morneau started today off in Dallas. I doubt he'll be at PNC Park tonight, but I suspect the Pirates will have to clear a roster spot for him before the game so that he's eligible and on the roster at the midnight deadline. I haven't seen a corresponding move announced yet, but chances seem good to me that Andrew Lambo will be demoted to Altoona so that he can bounce back up with Tony Sanchez and Jeff Locke on Tuesday. The Pirates could add Morneau to the roster after the game, of course, but they may run the risk of a looooong game preventing them from putting him on the roster (I honestly don't know exactly how the playoff roster deadline works; just that Morneau has to be on the roster before ithe deadline passes because he's coming from outside of the organization and that I trust the Pirates' front office not to screw the procedure up, so I'm not terribly worried about it).
The first pitch tonight is at 7:05. Time to start holding your breath again.