The COVID-19 outbreak with the Miami Marlins has led to a pair of canceled games Monday and leaves the league with some tough questions on how to proceed, but indications so far are that the Brewers and Pirates will still play.
Pittsburgh returns home after losing 2 of 3 in St. Louis to start the season, salvaging the series finale yesterday with a 5-1 win.
The Pirates are the first team the Brewers will play this year that have had to deal with COVID-19 problems of their own. They’re currently missing outfielder Gregory Polanco, who tested positive for the virus last week. Top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes and presumptive closer Keone Kela has also tested positive.
To be blunt, the Brewers should have a lot less trouble with the Pirates than they did with the Cubs, but we know how things tend to go at PNC Park. Outside of Polanco and Kela, the Pirates also don’t have Chris Archer and Jameson Taillon, who are injured and out for the year. Needless to say, pitching is expected to be a bit of a problem for the Bucs this year.
Offensively, they still have Josh Bell and newly-minted Brewer Killer Bryan Reynolds, although the two are a combined 2-for-20 to start the year. Colin Moran was one of the few offensive brightspots for the Pirates over the weekend in St. Louis, going 4-for-11 with a double and a home run.
Monday, July 27th - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Adrian Houser vs. Steven Brault
Tuesday, July 28th - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Josh Lindblom vs. Derek Holland
Wednesday, July 29th - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Brandon Woodruff vs. Joe Musgrove
The Pirates will start the series with two left-handed starters in Brault and Holland, the first southpaw starters the Brewers will see this year. As a result, we should see a different lineup from Craig Counsell than the ones we saw in Chicago — namely, we’d expect Jedd Gyorko to get the starts at third base over Eric Sogard, Ryan Braun could see more action at DH, Ben Gamel will likely take a seat, and Lorenzo Cain could end up back in the leadoff spot.
The Pirates would really like Brault to stick in the rotation, but like Tyler Chatwood this past weekend, walks have largely stood in the way of his success in that spot. He finished last year with a 5.16 ERA in 25 games (19 starts), but he had a respectable 3.51 ERA in 5 starts against the Brewers last year and held them to 2 runs or less in each of his first 4 starts against them — the Brewers didn’t get to him, scoring 6 runs (4 earned) over 5.1 innings during Craigtember.
Holland is trying to keep his career going after a bad 2019 that saw him put up a 6.08 ERA in 51 games mostly as a reliever last year for the Giants and Cubs. He did have a 3.57 ERA as a starter for the Giants in 2018, but has largely been searching for consistency since leaving the Texas Rangers after 2016.
Musgrove allowed 3 runs over 5.2 innings against the Cardinals on Opening Day, allowing 2 home runs but also striking out 7. He’s likely the Pirates’ best bet at a solid starting pitcher this year (depending on your level of belief in prospect Mitch Keller) and has a 3.78 FIP in 52 games as a Pirate since being a central part of the Gerrit Cole trade to Houston. The Brewers hit him well last year, scoring 8 times on 16 hits over 12 innings in 2 starts.
The Pirates’ bullpen is likely going to be a problem for them this year. With Kela out with an asymptomatic case of COVID-19, Pittsburgh is likely to use a committee to close out games. Kyle Crick and Nick Burdi are more likely than the others to appear at the end of games. Burdi struck out the side in his only appearance so far this year, while Crick struck out 2 while allowing 2 hits in 2/3 of an inning in his first appearance.