Padres Host MVP Andrew McCutchen, Pirates


Aug 20, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Tyson Ross (38) beats Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) to the base on a play during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres (26-31) open up their 6-game homestand tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates (26-30). The Padres have had success against the Pirates recently. They are 19-6 against Pittsburgh since 2010 and 8-4 at Petco Park. The Pirates have fallen short of expectations this year, sitting in 4th place in the NL Central and they are only a half-game better than San Diego. Pittsburgh is 5-2 against the NL West this year, and the Padres are 5-5 against the NL Central.

The slow start is not 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen’s fault. He is hitting .307 with 14 doubles, 24 RBI, 7 stolen bases and he is 4th in the MLB with a .427 on-base percentage. Part of the reason is because the Pirates’ pitching staff likes to give up the long ball, allowing 59 home runs, 4th most in the major leagues.

Game 1 tonight will feature the birthday boy Tim Stauffer (2-1, 4.50 ERA), who is coming off of a horrid start in Arizona, against Charlie Morton (1-7, 3.29 ERA). The Pirates have former UCLA Bruin Gerrit Cole (5-3, 3.80 ERA) slated for Game 2. The Padres will counter with rookie Jesse Hahn (NR). The finale features Ian Kennedy (4-6, 3.42 ERA) against Francisco Liriano (1-5, 4.62 ERA). Kennedy is coming off of a 9 strikeout performance against the White Sox.

These two teams have similar records but each has taken a very different path to get there. The Padres have relied on great pitching and small bursts of offense. The Pirates have a decent offense in McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez (10 HR, 31 RBI) and Neil Walker (10 HR). The pitching has been serviceable. Pirates’ starting pitchers have an ERA of 4.53, compared to the 3.81 of San Diego.

The Pirates are 10-17 on the road. This series is a crucial one for San Diego. They are playing a Pirates’ team that is weaker than originally expected. They must win this series to prepare for a tough test this weekend with the Washington Nationals. Padres’ hitters need to take advantage of the Pirates’ pitchers, who tend to issue a lot of walks. Liriano is 3rd in the NL in walks, and Monday night’s starter Morton is 10th. The Padres are second-to-last in walks drawn. This could be a  key to a series win, work the count in the favor of Padres hitters.