Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Series Preview

PITTSBURGH - JULY 10: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a three run home run against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning during the game on July 10, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

I think it's safe to say no one expected the Pittsburgh Pirates to be in first place this late in the season.

The Braves face the Pirates for four games at Turner Field, and could have Chipper Jones back in the lineup after he missed two weeks recovering from knee surgery. His bat would certainly help a Braves team that is coming off a 3-4 road trip and has fallen six games out of first in the NL East, but still maintain a four-game lead in the Wild Card.

Meanwhile, the Pirates are 5-4 since the All-Star Break and are in a three-way tie for first in the NL Central. The Braves won both games against the Pirates in Pittsburgh back in May.

Pitching matchups and more after the jump.

Monday, July 25, 7:10 p.m. EDT

James McDonald

#53 / Pitcher / Pittsburgh Pirates

6-4

200

L

R

Oct 19, 1984

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - James McDonald 6-4 19 19 0 0 0 0 104.0 108 51 48 13 52 85 4.15 1.54

Tim Hudson

#15 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

175

R

R

Jul 14, 1975

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tim Hudson 9-6 20 20 1 1 0 0 127.1 112 55 48 9 32 91 3.39 1.13

 

Tuesday, July 26, 7:10 p.m. EDT

Jeff Karstens

#27 / Pitcher / Pittsburgh Pirates

6-3

185

R

R

Sep 24, 1982

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jeff Karstens 8-5 21 17 1 1 0 0 114.2 100 37 29 17 19 61 2.28 1.04

Tommy Hanson

#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-6

220

R

R

Aug 28, 1986

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tommy Hanson 11-5 19 19 0 0 0 0 114.2 85 42 39 11 38 124 3.06 1.07

 

Wednesday, July 27, 7:10 p.m. EDT

Paul Maholm

#28 / Pitcher / Pittsburgh Pirates

6-2

220

L

L

Jun 25, 1982

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Paul Maholm 6-10 21 21 1 1 0 0 132.2 120 53 48 10 45 80 3.26 1.24

Jair Jurrjens

#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

200

R

R

Jan 29, 1986

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jair Jurrjens 12-3 18 18 2 1 0 0 121.2 105 35 33 8 30 80 2.44 1.11

 

Thursday, July 28, 7:10 p.m. EDT

Kevin Correia

#29 / Pitcher / Pittsburgh Pirates

6-3

200

R

R

Aug 24, 1980

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Kevin Correia 11-8 22 21 1 0 0 0 127.1 136 69 62 16 30 65 4.38 1.30

Derek Lowe

#32 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-6

230

R

R

Jun 01, 1973

 

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Derek Lowe 6-8 22 22 0 0 0 0 124.1 129 63 62 7 45 84 4.49 1.40

 

OFFENSE

Pittsburgh's offense is hitting .246 so far this season, good for 12th in the NL, but have hit just .230 since the All-Star Break; their 62 home runs ranks the third-lowest in the NL. Both catchers Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder have been sidelined with injuries, so the Pirates have been forced to go with the rookie tandem of Michael McKenry and Eric Fryer. McKenry is hitting .253 in 30 games while Fryer is 5 for 17 since his debut June 26.

Another rookie the Pirates have pressed into everyday duty is outfielder Alex Presley. He was brought up when Jose Tabata was placed on the DL and has been very impressive: in 20 games, he's hitting .333 and posting an OBP of .402 while slugging .494.

We all know what Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are capable of; they are the two biggest offensive threats in Pittsburgh's lineup: McCutchen leads the team in most offensive categories including batting average, OBP, slugging, home runs and stolen bases while Walker leads the team in RBI. Their career numbers against the Braves, though, aren't that spectacular: McCutchen is hitting .254 against Atlanta in 15 games and Walker only .212 over eight games. Lyle Overbay, on the other hand, has destroyed Braves pitching to the tune of a .337 average and a .979 OPS.

PITCHING

CURRENT BULLPEN

R - Joel Hanrahan (closer)
L - Joe Beimel
R - Jason Grilli
R - Daniel McCutchen
R - Chris Resop
R - Jose Veras
L - Tony Watson

Following a horrific 2010, the Pirates pitching staff is now one of the best in the league: their 3.41 ERA is fifth in the NL and their 3.06 bullpen ERA is third in the NL, only slightly better than that of the Braves (3.09). Joel Hanrahan has anchored the back end of the bullpen with 28 saves and a 1.21 ERA; he's only issued eight walks in 44.2 innings.

Of the four starters the Braves face in the series, Maholm has seen them the most and has done quite well (few lefties don't against them): only a 1.64 ERA in five starts. McDonald faced the Braves back in May and allowed two runs in six innings; those are the only two runs he's allowed in 17 innings against the Braves. McDonald's 52 walks are tied for fifth-highest in the NL. The 19 walks for Karstens are tied for the fewest among qualified pitchers.

OUTLOOK

The Braves have won 12 of their last 14 home games, and Lowe is a perfect 10-0 against the Pirates. Should this keep up, the Braves will have a very successful series.

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