Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Nobody was thinking back when the season started that the showcase series between July Fourth and the All-Star Break was going to be the Interleague clash between the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates. The A’s were supposed to fall off the pace in the AL West after allegedly playing over their heads last year. Pittsburgh hasn’t mattered for decades, why would they matter now?
Well, believe it or not, the A’s/Pirates battle that begins Monday Night is a possible World Series preview! Pittsburgh had the best record in the National League heading into Sunday action. Oakland was second-best in the American League.
Some of the pitchers who have made these teams developing stories will be on the mound in this series. Let’s run through the probable as a way to outline the matchup…
Oakland…..Colon: 11-3, 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
Pittsburgh…Locke: 8-1, 2.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
One of the most improbable stories of the 2013 season has to be the extended ace-caliber performance of Bartolo Colon in a year when so many top level pitchers have been inconsistent. Verlander, Dickey, Darvish…they’ve had their ups and downs. Colon isn’t even supposed to be in the majors any more! He had lost effectiveness. Then, he looked to have gained effectiveness through questionable means that got him in trouble. Whatever’s working now has worked for 10 straight quality starts and eight team victories in his last nine games.
Of course, one of the OTHER most improbable stories of the 2013 season is what’s happening to Jeff Locke! The youngster entered the campaign with a 1-6 lifetime record, having allowed 33 earned runs in 41 innings. Maybe he might turn into a innings muncher if everything broke right? But an East Coast version of Clayton Kershaw?!! Well, he doesn’t get strikeouts like the Dodger stud…but he’s been getting outs at the same rate.
Worth looking at the Under in this projected pitcher’s duel based on the pitching numbers alone. Can’t hurt that both offenses are travelling into Pittsburgh without a day off after playing in other cities Sunday.
Oakland…..Straily: 5-2, 4.52 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Pittsburgh…Cole: 4-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
An odd mix for Strailey, who brings a stellar WHIP but a lousy ERA to the table in this one. His ERA has improved dramatically from a number around seven 10 games ago. He’s in better form right now than 4.52 would suggest, but he’s prone to blow-ups.
Cole’s arrival in the big leagues was greeted with a lot of hoopla. But, it has to be said that he’s not striking out people at the rate you’d expect for a guy who throws the ball 100 mph! He’s only rung up 16 batters in 29.2 innings. It’s actually NOT a good sign if you throw that hard and aren’t making people miss. One of the hidden issues during the steroids era was that cheating pitchers were throwing harder, which just made home runs travel further when batters connected. Big test for Cole against a top team from the superior league.
Oakland…..Milone: 8-7, 4.11 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Pittsburgh …Liriano: 8-3, 2.20 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Note that this game will be nationally televised by ESPN in prime time. Milone was running along nicely until Texas, Cincinnati, and St. Louis knocked him around in succession. That suggests that he’s overmatched by contending offenses. Pittsburgh’s offense started the season poorly, but has been productive over the past month. Inconsistent Milone better bring his A game.
Liriano joins Lock and Colon on the list of major surprises this year. Though, it has to be said that Liriano was always a high strikeout pitcher who looked best suited for the National League. He was overmatched in the superior league…as were quite a few other guys who switched leagues and re-established their careers. Big edge for the Pirates on the mound in this one in terms of ERA’s. But…Liriano will now be facing an AL offense, which is worth remembering.
JIM HURLEY will likely have at least one big play in this marquee series. He’s also looking this week at LA Dodgers/Arizona, Texas/Baltimore, and LA Angels/Chicago Cubs. You can purchase game day releases right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure to check on seasonal rates and early bird football packages as well. If you have any questions, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-800-323-4453.
Back with you Tuesday to pick up once again with our college football conference previews. We’ll look at the two divisions in Conference USA Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we’ll preview the Cincinnati/Atlanta four-game series matching NL contenders. Friday we’ll switch to the American League for either Texas/Detroit or Boston/Oakland depending on how storylines for those teams play out in the next few days. Next weekend, we wrap up the mid-majors with the Sun Belt and the Independents. The All-Star Break will see us transition to major conference football previews.
The SUMMER continues to SIZZLE…so stay RED HOT with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!