PITTSBURGH — Even after Saturday night’s not-so-storybook ending, the Pirates (6-2) have a chance to make their season-opening homestand a winning one with a victory this afternoon against Cincinnati.
Jameson Taillon makes his second start after a successful nine-strikeout outing Monday against the Twins in the home opener. He’ll oppose 23-year-old rookie righty Tyler Mahle, who threw six one-hit innings at the Cubs last week.
After Gregory Polanco missed Saturday’s loss with discomfort in his right foot, he’ll be back in right field Sunday. He told reporters in PNC Park’s home clubhouse that he could’ve pinch-hit Saturday if needed.
Polanco said he felt OK to finish Friday’s game after fouling a pitch off his foot, but team medical staff held him back from playing Saturday after a pregame inspection of the affected area. His warmup Sunday went well, though.
“I ran and I feel good,” Polanco said. “Last year was enough (with injuries), so I’m going to go out there and play, help my team.”
Saturday’s loss to the Reds was a change from most games in this early-season push, if only because the offense went quiet for the final seven innings after building a 4-0 lead. Cincinnati pitchers retired 16 consecutive Pittsburgh hitters from the third through the eighth.
Still, the Pirates have scored the third-most runs in the majors to this point, with 53. This is the first time since 1923 that the Pirates have been this productive through the opening eight games of the season.
For more on that, here’s Alan Saunders’ closer look at a robust early-spring lineup, with input from Colin Moran and hitting coach Jeff Branson:
YEAH, BUT …
No doubt the Pirates’ young starting rotation has kept them in every game, including Chad Kuhl’s five innings of hardworking two-run ball Saturday night.
At the same time, Clint Hurdle said he needs to see a little more efficiency from a group that’s averaged 5.3 innings per start over the first eight games.
“I expected more length about three days ago, for the second turn (through the rotation),” Hurdle said. “We need more length from our starters.”
Maybe part of that is due to Hurdle’s quick hook? While Pirates’ starters are actually slightly above average in the National League in terms of average number of innings, they’re third from the bottom in the league with 87 pitches per outing.
I’m no Alan, so here’s a typical boring photo of the lineup card …
And the hot swinging Greg Polanco is back in there after an errant foul ball struck the top of his foot pic.twitter.com/yEffsCedLV
— Matt Gajtka (@MattGajtka) April 8, 2018
I need to work on my creativity.
And for Reds manager Bryan Price, trying to avoid a 2-6 start …
RF Jesse Winkler
3B Eugenio Suárez
1B Joey Votto
2B Scooter Gennett
LF Adam Duvall
C Tucker Barnhart
SS José Peraza
CF Billy Hamilton
We started with some sun this morning on the North Shore, but clouds have rolled in since, squelching any hope of the temperature nudging over 40 degrees during the game.
Weather.com has the chance of rain/snow hovering between 10 and 20 percent, with a 10 mph wind out of the northwest, so it’ll blow in and across the field from left to right.
Fire away in the comments section with what you’ve got. I’ll be down there during the game and we might see a few cameos from our cast of characters here at Pirates Prospects!