at LOS ANGELES DODGERS
First pitch: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
The Dodgers and Pirates do battle under the bright lights of Los Angeles in their series finale on Sunday night.
Pittsburgh has been playing much better baseball of late, winning six of its past nine games after defeating L.A. by a score of 6-3 in the opener of this four-game series on Thursday. The Pirates homered twice off of Dodgers’ starter Dan Haren in the game, once from 3B Pedro Alvarez and then later from C Russell Martin. They brought a tie game into the seventh inning and were able to get to the Los Angeles relievers, scoring three times in that frame while the Pittsburgh bullpen closed out the game. OF Andrew McCutchen (.307 BA) was 0-for-4 in the victory but is still a stellar 11-for-36 (.305) over his past 10 games. The Dodgers are still struggling in the NL West, and are tied with the Rockies at 6.5 games behind the Giants. They come into this contest as winners in six of their past 10 games, but have lost the last two while scoring a combined five runs. The offense did have four extra-base hits on Thursday, and OF Yasiel Puig (.348 BA) was 2-for-4 with two doubles to make him 16-for-35 (.457) with five doubles, two homers, 5 RBI and eight runs in his most recent 10-game stretch. 2B Dee Gordon (.288 BA) swiped two more bags in the loss and now has a league-leading 32 steals on the year. Toeing the rubber for the visiting Pirates will be RHP Edinson Volquez (2-4, 4.30 ERA) as he goes up against one of the top arms in the game, RHP Zack Greinke (8-1, 2.18 ERA). Even with the win on Thursday, Pittsburgh is just 8-16 in away games this season while Los Angeles is a poor 11-15 at home. Going back three seasons, the Dodgers are now 10-4 in this matchup and had gone 6-0 in that time at home until the defeat on Thursday.
Edinson Volquez has put together two solid starts in a row while giving up just seven hits and three runs in 11 innings, but has struggled with control, with seven walks in that time. His last start came against the Mets, as he earned a no-decision and walked a season-high five batters, which is surprising due to his career-low walk rate of 7.9% this year. With his improved control, he has seen his strikeout numbers decrease, as Volquez is mowing down just 5.6 batters per nine innings in 2014, which is well below his 8.2 K/9 career rate. He has had seven career starts against the Dodgers, going 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA and horrible 1.61 WHIP, due to walking 29 batters in just 39 frames. OF Matt Kemp (5-for-12, 1 HR, 2 RBI) and 1B Adrian Gonzalez (4-for-12, 2 HR, 4 RBI) have had plenty of success against the 30-year-old, while middle infielders Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon have combined to go just 4-for-26 (.154) with seven strikeouts in the matchup. Going into Friday’s game, the Pirates bullpen has gone 16-7 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, and are 16-for-26 (62%) in their save chances. Jason Grilli (3.27 ERA, 6 saves) notched his second save since returning from the DL on Thursday and is 6-for-9 in save opportunities this year.
Zack Greinke is often overshadowed by Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, but he should not be taken lightly and has been one of the best starters in baseball since 2011, going 54-16 (.771) while having his ERA decrease in each successive season. This year has quite possibly been Greinke's best, with batters hitting just .240 against him while he is striking out 10.4 batters per nine innings, while showing unbelievable control (1.9 BB/9). Greinke has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 11 starts this year and is coming off a start against the Reds where he threw 7.2 frames while giving up three runs on eight hits with zero walks and 11 strikeouts. He has now started eight games against Pittsburgh in his career and is surprisingly 5-2 despite a high 5.29 ERA and 1.18 WHIP against them. Superstar OF Andrew McCutchen has been horrible against Greinke, going 4-for-21 with a double, triple, 2 RBI and four strikeouts, while 3B Pedro Alvarez (2-for-15, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 K’s) and 2B Neil Walker (4-for-18, 2 HR, 5 RBI) have hit for power, but not average against him. SS Clint Barmes has had the most success against Greinke, and is 7-for-13 against him with two doubles and 2 RBI. Even with all of the big names in the Dodgers’ bullpen, they have gone just 4-13 with a 4.12 ERA and 1.41 WHIP while converting 17-of-21 (81%) saves. Closer Kenley Jansen (3.75 ERA, 16 saves) has blown two saves this season while having an incredible 39 strikeouts in just 24 innings on the mound (14.5 K/9).