The second Saturday of FOX Saturday Baseball will give viewers the opportunity to watch pitchers hit or the designated hitter as a National League game and an American League game fill this weekend’s timeslots. Once again, FOX has the action at 7:15 p.m. ET with their exclusive television window. The National League matchup will feature the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chavez Ravine against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Junior Circuit matchup will feature a couple of struggling AL East foes as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Boston Red Sox.
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles
Former punching bag Wandy Rodriguez was designated for assignment last week by the Pittsburgh Pirates and his rotation spot was filled by Saturday’s starter Brandon Cumpton. The Dodgers will send South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound. Neither team has experienced the same level of success that they enjoyed during the 2013 season. The Pirates, a surprise wild card round winner last season, are just 24-29 and in third place in the very mediocre NL Central Division. The Dodgers are 29-26, which is better than average, and certainly better than their 23-32 mark after 55 games last season.
Cumpton will be making his fourth start of the season and has exhibited very good control in his first 18.2 innings. He has walked only two of the 77 batters that he has faced. Cumpton enters this outing with an 0-1 record and a 3.38 ERA. He was 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Indianapolis. He sits in the low-to-mid 90s with a heavy sinker, which he has thrown over 71 percent of the time in his first three starts. He has been almost exclusively sinker-slider in those two starts.
The Pirates got the bats going in the month of May after managing just 95 runs in 25 April contests. In May, they have scored 107 runs in 27 games entering action on Friday. However, the Pirates have averaged just 3.25 runs per game on the road over their first 24 road games. That’s rather surprising, given that PNC Park rates as one of the better pitcher’s parks on a regular basis.
Ryu is making his third start following a stint on the disabled list and his 10th start overall. In his first nine starts, Ryu has been solid with a 5-2 record and a 3.10 ERA. His 2.50 FIP can be attributed to the great job he has done limiting home runs. Ryu has a 47/12 K/BB ratio on the year and has allowed just two home runs in his 52.1 innings so far. In his 117.1 career innings at Dodger Stadium, Ryu has a 3.14 ERA.
The Pirates have had some success against lefties this season with a .735 OPS and they have done it the hard way with just seven home runs in 286 plate appearances against southpaws. The Pirates will be facing a left-handed starter for just the sixth time and they are 3-2 thus far. The Dodgers are seventh overall in wOBA at .325 and are in the middle of the pack in run-scoring situations with men in scoring position.
Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers
Ryu is one of the most unheralded pitchers in the game. The price to take the Dodgers is fairly steep, but Cumpton is a pitch-to-contact kind of guy that needs some batted ball luck to be successful. There are a lot of aggressive hitters on the Dodgers, which could signal a boom or bust type of start for Cumpton. Lean towards the bust side as he doesn’t miss many bats and the Pirates aren’t going to score many runs.
Tampa Bay at Boston
It won’t be a headline-grabbing pitching matchup at Fenway Park on Saturday when Jake Odorizzi takes on Rubby de la Rosa as two scuffling teams look for a spark from an unexpected source. Odorizzi has shown a lot of swing and miss ability this season, but shaky control and deep counts have limited him to less than five innings per start.
Odorizzi’s strikeout ability has been a surprise, punching out over 26 percent of opposing batters. But, his walk rate is also 11 percent, well above league average and he is averaging a robust 4.4 pitches per plate appearance. The concern for Odorizzi is and has always been his ability to neutralize left-handed hitters. This season, lefties are batting .272/.331/.451 off of him. After a rough start to the season with a 6.85 ERA through the end of April, he has a 2.45 ERA in five May starts.
de la Rosa has not made a start at the Major League level since July 31, 2011. Tommy John surgery and its complications pushed him to the bullpen until the Red Sox used him as a starter in the minor leagues in 2013 and 2014. In 10 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, de la Rosa had a 2-3 record with a 3.04 ERA. He made 11 relief appearances for the Red Sox in 2013 and posted a 5.56 ERA.
The Rays and Red Sox are a combined 47-60 this season when both of them were expected to contend for the AL East Division crown. The high-priced Red Sox offense has really struggled all season long and the Rays have dealt with a myriad of injuries, including critical ones to Ben Zobrist and Alex Cobb. The Red Sox actually lead Major League Baseball in pitcher WAR, but the Red Sox are just 9-17 against the AL East this season. The Rays have been plagued by one of the game’s worst bullpens.
The Red Sox have played 42 of their 53 games against teams at .500 or better. The Rays are just 11-22 against teams .500 or better and 12-9 against sub-.500 competition. These two teams are desperate for a turnaround and one of them may be able to use this series as a springboard.
Pick: Tampa Bay Rays
Emotions will run high for Rubby de la Rosa making his first start in nearly three years. Jake Odorizzi is throwing well right now and the adjustments that he has made sure seem to be working. de la Rosa has a lot of problems repeating his delivery and throwing strikes and the Rays are a very patient lineup capable of making a pitcher work extremely hard to register outs. This game may become a battle of the bullpens, which undoubtedly favors Boston, but Odorizzi has the upper hand in the starting matchup and the Rays could provide him with some nice run support.