Series Preview — Rockies @ Pirates (4/7 – 4/10)

The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a hot start.  They went on the road to begin the season and roughed up the Cubs and the Cardinals.  The Rockies will have to deal with the emotion of today’s game being Pittsburgh’s home opener.  Also, there is the Clint Hurdle element.  Yes, the Rockies former manager now manages the hapless Pirates.  He has the Bucs playing good baseball right now.  The Rox need to take care of business in their first road series of the season.  Right now, Pittsburgh is not a team to take lightly.

Colorado Rockies

3-1, 1st in NL West

Pittsburgh Pirates

4-2, 2nd in NL Central (0.5 GB)

Pitching Matchups

Esmil Rogers vs. Paul Maholm

The last time Esmil made a start, he gave up three home runs to the Tulsa Drillers.  Hopefully, his first start of the regular season will go much better.  The Rockies really like Esmil’s potential, but he may not be ready yet.  We will get a good idea today.  This is a Pirates team that roughed up Chris Carpenter yesterday.

The left-handed Maholm was tough on the Cubs in his first start.  He threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out three.  He’s hard on lefties and has days when he is very tough to hit.  It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Tracy puts out there today.  The other day he protected Seth Smith and kept him out of the lineup against lefty Clayton Kershaw, but I bet Smith plays today.  On the other hand, Ian Stewart has been struggling early and it’s doubtful Tracy will expose him to a solid lefty right now.  Also, Todd Helton will probably get the day off.

Jorge De La Rosa vs. Ross Ohlendorf

Before leaving the game with a blood blister, Jorge was dominant in his first start of the season.  His fastball was lively with nice movement and he was throwing a filthy changeup.  Honestly, he reminded me a little of Johan Santana.

Ohlendorf had a horrendous spring, but made an okay debut.  Against the Cubs, he went six innings and gave up four runs.  The Pirates eventually went on to win the game, giving Ross a no decision.  He’s a guy that the Rockies can rough up.  With their current de facto ace on the mound, the Rox really need to take this game.

Greg Reynolds vs. Charlie Morton

Greg Reynolds never made it to AAA this year.  He was scheduled to start the Sky Sox home opener tonight, but the Rockies “fingered” him to replace Ubaldo.  He pitched well enough in spring training to work his way into the fifth starter competition, but he was beat out by Esmil’s potential.  With Aaron Cook on the mend and John Maine looking strong, Reynolds may only get the chance to start a couple of games.  He needs to take advantage of the opportunity.

Last year in 17 starts, Morton’s ERA approached 8.00.  His first start of 2011 went much better, picking up the win in a six inning effort against the Cardinals.  He relies heavily on a 95 MPH fastball.  When he throws it for strikes he is effective, but when he struggles with command he gets lit up.  The Rockies must remain patient against Morton.  With Reynolds going, they will probably need to score some runs.

Jhoulys Chacin vs. James McDonald

In his first start of the season, Jhoulys outdueled Dodgers’ ace, Clayton Kershaw.  He threw seven scoreless without the help of his best stuff.  All he needs to do on Sunday is build off his last start.  It’s a safe bet that the Rockies will either be going for the series win or a split.  I like this matchup.  If Jhoulys is sharp, he’s going to be very tough on the immature Pirates.

McDonald missed extensive time in spring training with an oblique strain.  He pitched well in his season debut against the Cards, but he was only able to go 4 2/3 innings.  He doesn’t throw hard and will try to take advantage of over eager batters.  The key will be to make him work.  I don’t see him getting out of the fifth on Sunday.

Who’s Hot

Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki and Jhoulys Chacin

Prior to the Dodgers series, Tulo was listed in the “Who’s Cold” section.  Obviously, he heated up against the Dodgers.  He hit two bombs in the two game series and played some ridiculous defense.  He should pick up right where he left off against the Bucs.  You think Tulo wants to stick it to Clint Hurdle a little?  I’m betting he does.

As I previously mentioned, Jhoulys was outstanding against the Dodgers.  According to him and Chris Iannetta, he didn’t have his best stuff.  Imagine what he’ll be like when he does.

Pittsburgh: Andrew McCutchen and Joel Hannrahan

McCuthen is one of baseball’s rising stars and probably the best player to suit up for the Pirates in a very long time.  He’s off to a hellacious start.  In just 18 at-bats, he has already hit two doubles and two home runs while drawing three walks.  He’s a guy that the Rockies must keep off base.  Neil Walker is also off to a solid start.

Closer Joel Hanrahan is one of the most underrated closers in baseball.  He has already converted four saves this year while striking out five.  He possesses a terrific arm.  Ideally, the Rockies won’t have to see him during the series.

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Topics: Andrew McClutchen, Charlie Morton, Chris Carpenter, Clint Hurdle, Colorado Rockies, Esmil Rogers, Greg Reynolds, James McDonald, Jhoulys Chacin, Joel Hanrahan, Jorge De La Rosa, Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates, Ross Ohlendorf, Troy Tulowitzki, Tulsa Drillers

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