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Much has changed since the last time the Pirates and Rockies met

First, the Rockies had to prove they could win a series (Cardinals). Then they had to prove it wasn't a fluke (Brewers). Then the Rox had to show it could translate at home (Mariners). Then there was the challenge of winning against a world-class offense (Rays). And we've done all that.

So what does a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates offer? How about winning a series while being clearly the better team for once? Believe it or not, this is the first series the Rockies have gone into with a better record than their opponent since April 10th, the first home series of the years against the Phillies. Can we respond now that we are no longer the underdog? It would be our first series win (in two tries) against a team with an inferior record.

Or how about redemption? One month ago, the Pirates embarrassed the Rockies Rockies embarrassed themselves in Pittsburgh (see 10-run, 2-error inning). A dramatic ninth inning home run by Brad Hawpe was all that staved off the sweep. That series more or less sealed the fate of Clint Hurdle. After failing to lose series at Atlanta and Detroit, the move was delayed, but the losing attitude was smothering.

So now's the chance to get back and show the Pirates what real Rockies baseball is. They have treaded water at 15-14 since the series, and the Rockies have gone 19-11, passing Pittsburgh and five other teams in the wild card race in that month. We won't have to face Nate McLouth, who was traded to Atlanta, but Charlie Morton - who came in that trade - is slated to pitch on Saturday.

Also, check out Bucs Dugout, Pittsburgh's SBNation site. Check it out, but be friendly.


Pittsburgh Pirates (31-35, L1, t-5th, 6 GB)

Friday-Sunday : 3-game series at Coors Field

The Bats: D+

A weak offense got weaker when Nate McLouth got shipped to Georgia, but it should be noted that two young players have stepped up in his absence. Delwyn Young (1.120 OPS in June), who Pittsburgh basically got for free from the Dodgers this spring, and top prospect Andrew McCutchen (.849 OPS since his callup June 4) have really excelled with regular playing time. Still, they are only 20th in wOBA this season and 19th in runs, and that ought to be adjusted downward by tossing out McLouth's contributions. Then consider their 40 home runs, second to only the Giants' 38 for MLB futility. Take McLouth's nine out of the equation...and their roster is by far the weakest in the bigs. I mean, the Rockies have six players who have more dingers than Freddy Sanchez, second on the roster.

Andrew McCutchen - CF .333 1 9
Nyjer Morgan - LF
.256 1 24
Freddy Sanchez - 2B
.314 5 25
Adam LaRoche - 1B
.260 9 32
Delwyn Young - RF
.360 1 11
Andy LaRoche - 3B
.278 3 31
Robinzon Diaz - C
.295 1 15
Jack Wilson - SS
.274 1 20

Ryan Doumit is still on the DL, so Jason Jaramillo will get one or two starts this weekend. Brandon Moss still finds a start about half the time in the outfield, and Eric Hinske, Craig Monroe, and Ramon Vazquez fill out the bench.

The Arms: C-

The Pirates started strong in allowing the fewest runs in the league, but after getting three shutouts in four games April 17-20, Pittsburgh has failed to record another one in the two months since. Their ERA is a bit above average at 12th (4.24), though thier FIP is 22nd (4.51), and their tRA is even higher - 4.63 in the rotation and 5.00 in the bullpen. In fact the bullpen has the fourth worst FIP in the majors, partially due to Matt Dicus Capps having an ERA near 5.00 And yes, that's his real middle name.

Charlie Morton will take Jeff Karstens' rotation spot Saturday, and that may help things in the rotation, but they've still been deceptively below average. We will miss their worst starter so far this year (Ian Snell) but also arguably their best (Zach Duke), so the series will be a pretty fair shake.

The D: A

The Pirates have made just 27 errors, 3rd least in MLB, which has led to 24 unearned runs yet are also tied for the 3rd best UZR/150 rating at 6.6. Replacing McLouth with Andrew McCutchen in center also improves their defensive picture.

Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 7:10 pm MDT

2009 - Ross Ohlendorf 6-5 4.56 1.27 39 22

2009 - Jason Marquis 8-4 3.77 1.35 41 31

Saturday, June 20, 6:10 pm MDT

2009 - Charlie Morton 0-0 0.00 1.00 0 0

2009 - Jason Hammel 4-3 4.10 1.48 42 15

Thursday, June 18, 1:10 MDT

2009 - Paul Maholm 4-3 4.23 1.41 54 28

2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 2-7 5.81 1.49 76 33

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumAdam LaRoche is really starting to heat up. He is 9 for his last 19 with 2 HR. Delwyn Young, Jack Wilson, Andrew McCutchen, and Freddy Sanchez are all OPSing over .930 over the past week as well. Ross Ohlendorf allowed only one run and two hits in his previous start.

IceNyjer Morgan and Andy LaRoche have been the biggest flops recently, each collecting just three hits and one home run over the past week. Paul Maholm was torched for eight runs in his last start.

Bandaid_mediumRyan Doumit is still on the DL with a wrist injury he sustained April 20, when the Pirates were over .500. Tyler Yates (elbow) and Donald Veal (groin) are on the 15-day, and Phil Dumatrait (shoulder) and Craig Hansen (neck) are on the 60-day.