4-17-23 – By Christian Wolf – @CWolfPGH on Twitter
The Pirates end their road trip with a quick three game series in Colorado.
When & Who
Game 1 – (4/17, 8:40 EST)
For the Pirates – Rich Hill (0-2, 7.20 ERA)
For the Rockies – Kyle Freeland (2-0, 0.96 ERA)
Game 2 – (4/18, 8:40 EST)
For the Pirates – Vince Velasquez (1-2, 5.40 ERA)
For the Rockies – Jose Urena (0-2, 9.90 ERA)
Game 3 – (4/19, 3:10 EST)
For the Pirates – Johan Oviedo (1-1, 2.45 ERA)
For the Rockies – Austin Gomber (0-3, 8.16 ERA)
The Rockies are in the middle of a free-fall, having lost five straight games and fresh off getting swept in Seattle, a series where they only managed to score 5 runs. The Rockies starting rotation ranks 24th in baseball with a 5.45 ERA, and their bullpen isn’t much better, coming in with a 4.55 ERA in 59.1 innings, with opponents hitting .254 off their relievers. However, the Rockies are hitting .298 and have an OPS of .801 as a team at home this year, which ranks 5th best in all of baseball.
As for the Pirates, they’re coming off a split in St. Louis, with their starting rotation going six innings or more in each game. The Pirates are hitting just .227 as a team on the road this year, with an OPS of .704. However, the Bucs have walked forty times in games away from home this year, 3rd best in baseball, and showing continued patience is going to be important. The Pirates starting rotation ranks 20th in baseball with a 4.75 ERA, and opponents are hitting .262 off them. The Pirates bullpen has stayed fairly reliable so far, ranking 5th in the NL with a 3.61 ERA.
For the Rockies – Kris Bryant: The Rockies outfielder has hits in three of his past four games, including two muli-hit games in that span, a rare bright spot within the Rockies recent struggles. He’s raised his average to .295 and his OPS to .741
For the Pirates – Ke’Bryan Hayes: The Pirates third-baseman collected hits in each of the three games he played against the Cardinals, including his first home run of the season. After a slow offensive start, Hayes has been putting together quality at bats, and also collected a walk in each game against St. Louis.
For the Rockies – Charlie Blackman: After a hot start to the year, Blackman managed just one hit the entire series against the Mariners, including three strikeouts on Sunday. Still a dangerous hitter with his .296 average, Blackman can deal damage if pitchers throw him mistakes, which the Bucs need to avoid this series.
For the Pirates – Canaan Smith-Njigba: The Pirates rookie made two starts and three appearances against the Cardinals, grabbing just a single hit. Smith-Njigba has struggled early this season, posting a .154 average and .527 OPS early, and will likely continue to see playing time with the Pirates rotating different players through the outfield.
Series Overview & Prediction
The Pirates have posted a steady start to the season, but with injuries starting to pop up it is reasonable to wonder how much longer they can keep putting together wins consistently. The pitching, particularly in the starting rotation, has been improving and has already shown the ability to keep the Pirates in games when the offense is struggling. While this is a good sign, Coors Field has the potential to be a pitchers nightmare when it comes to home runs.
The Rockies didn’t show much love and commitment to their fans this past offseason, and now it’s starting to show up on the scoresheet. When you aren’t scoring runs, (and the Rockies are averaging less than 4 runs a game), it’s hard to win. Colorado undoubtedly sees this series against Pittsburgh as an opportunity to gain some momentum before they head on the road to Philadelphia. Coming home to your fanbase after getting swept in Seattle is already a bad look as it is.
The Pirates pitching is trending up. The Rockies hitting is trending down. But can Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez perform well enough to give the Pirates a chance to take the series? That’s the million-dollar question right there.
Colorado takes two of the three.