Sinking Pirates Close Series With Cardinals
By: Willie Bee
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Paul Simon's Slip Slidin' Away might be a good choice for background music in the upcoming video documenting the Pittsburgh Pirates' 2012 season.
Pittsburgh will look to stop a recent slide in the National League standings Wednesday night with the conclusion of an important series against the St. Louis Cardinals. ESPN will broadcast the contest starting at 7:00 p.m. (ET) as the Bucs send Wandy Rodriguez to the mound against Cardinals rookie Joe Kelly.
Opening MLB odds for the game listed Pittsburgh a slight -110 favorite with an 8½-run total that leaned 'over.'
Just as the lyrics of Simon's hit song go, the Pirates are getting closer to a playoff destination only to see those chances slowly disappearing. They came out of the all-star break in good form, made a few acquisitions near the trade deadline and stood a season-high 16 games over .500 (63-47) following a 7-6 home win against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 8.
Monday's 4-3 setback in the opener of this series left Pittsburgh 5-13 since that point with Tuesday's second game still pending. St. Louis was a slight favorite (-115) in Game 2 which also carried an 8-run total.
Rodriguez was one of the players the Pirates traded for in late-July, picking the seasoned southpaw up from the Houston Astros. He has pitched to a 4.86 ERA in five starts and a relief outing since the swap, with Pittsburgh 1-4 in the starting assignments and Rodriguez's only dubya coming when he was summoned from the 'pen.
That winning relief appearance did come against St. Louis with Wandy tossing two scoreless frames at the end of a 19-inning marathon. It is the only time Rodriguez has faced the Cards this season, though he has plenty of experience against them over the years while pitching in the NL Central (7-11 lifetime record, 3.73 ERA).
When Pittsburgh sat 63-47, St. Louis was 60-51 and trailed the Pirates by 3.5-games for second place in the division. The Cardinals have gone 11-6 since then and were a season-high 14 games above .500 entering Tuesday's game. They had just about turned the tables on the Bucs who were three behind the Redbirds who are now second in NL Central and NL wild card race.
Offense is definitely the name of the game for St. Louis who has not missed slugger Albert Pujols one little bit. The Cards lead the Senior Circuit in scoring (4.94 rpg), and they routinely sport a lineup that includes 5-6 hitters batting in the upper-.290s or better who are capable of beating you with the long ball or their legs.
Kelly has been working in relief the last couple of weeks, including a long stint in that 19-inning match that Rodriguez won. The young right-hander was called up in June to take the place of the injured Jaime Garcia, and will now move back into the rotation in place of Lance Lynn who shifts to the bullpen following a stretch of rough starts. Kelly's relief outing on Aug. 19 is his only experience vs. the Pirates who are 49-45 against righties.
This game will be the final regular season contest between the Cards and Pirates. The victory on Monday was the seventh for St. Louis in 13 meetings, and gave the Redbirds a 62-35 mark at PNC Park. All four games played in Pittsburgh entering Tuesday's tilt failed to reach the total. Game 1 snapped a 4-game 'over' run for the Cards while four of the Pirates' previous five games have gone 'under.'