The Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals get back to playing against National League competition as these NL Central squads pair up at Busch Stadium on Thursday night. The Pirates just got done playing the White Sox in interleague play and the Cardinals wrapped up a set against the Detroit Tigers.
The Cardinals are favored in the -150 range at Bookmaker Sportsbook with a total of 9 for this series lid-lifter to kick off the four-game set. Chad Kuhl will go for the Pirates and the Redbirds will roll with Carlos Martinez in hopes of getting back on track after falling two games under .500 for the first time since April 21.
It looks to be a long, grueling rebuild in the Steel City. The Pirates don’t have a ton of high-end prospects in the system, as some weak drafts and a key graduation to the big leagues have the system looking pretty bare. Ke’Bryan Hayes looks to be a legit big leaguer, but it will be a long waiting game for guys like Quinn Priester, Liover Peguero, and Oneil Cruz.
The Pirates are last in most offensive categories this season. They entered play on Wednesday last in slugging percentage and wOBA and didn’t do much against Dylan Cease and the White Sox bullpen to improve upon those numbers. The Pirates have only hit 52 home runs in 72 games. That simply won’t get it done. Not in today’s MLB.
PNC Park is pretty widely known as a bad offensive park, though a bad offense will also make for a bad offensive park. Well, the road hasn’t been any kinder to the Pirates, who are actually worse offensively across the board away from home. That would seem to be bad going to Busch Stadium, another park that suppresses offense. When your claim to fame on the road is “only better than the Rockies”, that is not good.
You automatically think the worst when a starting pitcher was part of an 11-10 game, but it wasn’t Chad Kuhl’s fault. Kuhl, who has a 5.66 ERA with a 5.88 FIP in his 35 innings of work, only allowed one run on four hits over his six innings. It was the Pirates bullpen, a group that has seen some big spin rate decreases since the foreign substance crackdown, that had a major meltdown.
There is a stat at FanGraphs called Game Score Version 2. The baseline for an average start is a Game Score of 50. Kuhl only has two “above average” starts on the season, but his last one was his best one. I guess that says something about the Indians offense. He’s walked 22 and struck out 27 in 35 innings.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals fell to 6-14 in the month of June with their loss to the Tigers on Wednesday. They’ve now been outscored 100-58 in the month. It has been as ugly as it seems. The loss of Jack Flaherty to injury seems to have reverberated across the rest of the roster, as the Cardinals have scored fewer than three runs per game and have given up five runs per game. Nothing seems to be going right for this team and there appear to be a lot of guys playing hurt, physically or mentally.
Carlos Martinez does not seem healthy. The 29-year-old right-hander has a 6.62 ERA with a 4.51 FIP in his 68 innings of work. Martinez will make his 14th start here in hopes of improving upon a ghastly 55% LOB%. Martinez has not been able to get out of innings and it has driven up his ERA in a big way.
He hasn’t given himself much margin for error with a 15.6% K% on the season. He’s also allowed a career-worst Hard Hit% of 44.7%. C-Mart has also had issues maintaining his velocity throughout some of his starts this season. The command and control have both been poor and he is showing the Cardinals that maybe he’d be better back in a relief capacity.
Martinez and the pitchers are hardly the only issues. St. Louis has been freefalling on offense. The Cardinals went into Wednesday’s game ranked 27th in wOBA and didn’t do much to fix that. The idea of having Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt and still being a bottom-five offense is ludicrous, but it is also a reality.
Over the last 30 days, the Cardinals have the worst offense in baseball by wOBA and the third-worst by wRC+. Busch Stadium doesn’t help, but the problems run a lot deeper than that.
Pirates vs. Cardinals Free Pick
So how do we possibly pick something in this game? The Pirates are awful. The Cardinals are playing at a Pirates-esque level of late. We have a total of 8.5 in a dreadful hitter’s park. What do we do? Well, the Pirates are at least battling right now. The Cardinals have just rolled over and died it seems. With that in mind, how about we give the Pirates a look tonight?
Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates