Thursday 6:05 pm CT Yovani Gallardo vs Edinson Volquez
Gallardo has been pretty good this year but he’s not getting results by the same methods he used to use. Instead of trying to strike guys out he’s been inducing a lot ground outs. As a team the Pirates have the 10th highest ground ball rate so that plays right into this strategy. In their first meeting this season Gallardo held the Pirates to 2 runs, both earned, in 6 innings pitched, striking out 6. He also had a 53.3 GB%.
Edinson Volquez has been nearly as effective for the Pirates using basically the same strategy as Gallardo. He also held the Brewers to 2 runs, one earned, in 6.1 innings pitched. He struck out 4 and had a 47.4 GB%.
Kyle Lohse has been a bit of a surprise this season. He’s hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs in any of his first three outings which we've come to expect. What is surprising is his 25% strike out rate. That’s probably not going to continue much longer if only because he’s traditionally a very effective pitch to contact guy. Thus far he’s given up more fly balls than ground balls, but PNC is going to keep a lot of them in the park. Last time Lohse held the Pirates to 1 run in 8.2 IP while striking out 9.
Charlie Morton is another starter that doesn’t get a lot of strike outs but does induce a high amount of ground balls. So far he has a 51.9% ground ball rate which is actually a bit below his career average of 54.7%. In their first meeting this season the Brewers scored 4 runs but only 2 were earned. Morton struck out as many batters as he walked (3) but also induced a 50% ground ball rate.
Matt Garza has been mostly solid so far. He is coming off his worst start of the season (7 IP, 4 runs) but even that isn't horrible. His biggest problem has been home runs. He’s allowed 3, including 2 in his last start. Again, PNC Park should help him out with that. His 20% strike out rate is pretty decent and his 4.7% walk rate is excellent. Garza has not faced the Pirates since last year.
This will also be the first time of the season Brewers will face the Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez. I would say it’s unfortunate since he’s been awful, but they swept them so it’s a wash. His 18% strike out rate and 6.9% walk rates are decent if not impressive. It’s the home runs that have killed him. He’s allowed 6 in 16 innings pitched. Based on both starters' profiles, if any game will devolve into a home run derby it’s this one.
Estrada hasn’t faced the Pirates either. His first two starts of the season were about what you’d expect. If anything I'd expect his strikeout rate to rise and his walk rate to dip. His last start was his "worst" of the season and even then he gave the Brewers a quality start. He seemed a little off only striking out 3, but also only allowing 1 walk. Estrada is another fly ball pitcher so hopefully the locale will benefit him too.
Gerrit Cole represents the toughest pitching matchup of the series. Much like Wily Peralta, he throws in the mid to upper 90’s and induces a lot of ground balls. So far he’s also striking out 19.5% of the batters he faces. His 8.9% walk rate is a little high, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue for him against the Brewers’ hyper aggressive approach.
I think the Brewers are a better overall team than the Pirates. I also think PNC Park will help the Brewers pitchers more than it’ll help the Pirates pitchers. The best chance for the Pirates to win comes on Sunday and after the spanking the Brewers doled out the last series I’m not betting against them. Ultimately I think the Brewers will take 3 out 4.
All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.