Well, two playoff teams if the season ended today. Who would have thunk it?
The Pittsburgh Pirates come into Atlanta with a half-game lead in the NL Central, thanks largely in part to a few guys having breakout seasons. Whether or not they'll be able to maintain pace with the Brewers and Cardinals remains to be seen, but they've been a great story nonetheless.
This series preview is going to be a little different than previous ones. We like to keep it fresh here at SB Nation Atlanta.
Player to watch out for:
#22 / Center Field / Pittsburgh Pirates
Oct 10, 1986
|2011 - Andrew McCutchen||97||361||55||101||23||4||14||59||53||71||15||5||.280||.378||.482|
Andrew McCutchen hasn't really been named by an national media outlets as an MVP candidate, but he should be considering the team he's on and just how good he's been in center field. The 24-year old outfielder has been the best player on the Pirates and has been a 4.6 fWAR player this season. Without him, Pittsburgh isn't 52-47 and in contention for their first playoff spot since 1994.
#18 / Second Base / Pittsburgh Pirates
Sep 10, 1985
Last 14 days: .314/.368/.475, 131 wRC+
Neil Walker has been good all season, but he's been especially impressive since the All-Star Game. The second baseman is enjoying a breakout season at the plate and currently leads the team with 62 RBI and is tied for second with nine home runs. The Braves will need to cool Walker's bat if they hope to win the series.
Monday, 7:10EDT - ESPN
|2011 - Tim Hudson||9-6||20||20||1||1||0||0||127.1||112||55||48||9||32||91||3.39||1.13|
|2011 - James McDonald||6-4||18||19||0||0||0||0||104.0||108||51||48||13||52||85||4.15||1.54|
Tuesday, 7:10EDT - SportSouth
|2011 - Tommy Hanson||11-5||19||19||0||0||0||0||114.2||85||42||39||11||38||124||3.06||1.07|
|2011 - Jeff Karstens||8-5||21||17||1||1||0||0||114.2||100||37||29||17||19||61||2.28||1.04|
Wednesday, 7:10EDT - SportSouth
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||12-3||18||18||2||1||0||0||121.2||105||35||33||8||30||80||2.44||1.11|
|2011 - Paul Maholm||6-10||21||21||1||1||0||0||132.2||120||53||48||10||45||80||3.26||1.24|
Thursday, 7:10EDT - SportSouth
|2011 - Derek Lowe||6-8||22||22||0||0||0||0||124.1||129||63||62||7||45||84||4.49||1.40|
|2011 - Kevin Correia||11-8||22||21||1||0||0||0||127.1||136||69||62||16||30||65||4.38||1.30|
In the 'pen:
#52 / Pitcher / Pittsburgh Pirates
Oct 06, 1981
|2011 - Joel Hanrahan||0-1||43||0||0||0||28||1||44.2||33||7||6||1||8||38||1.21||.92|
Joel Hanrahan is to the Pirates as Jonny Venters AND Craig Kimbrel are to the Braves. He's been excellent this season in the ninth inning for Pittsburgh and he was rewarded with an All-Star Game selection.
Outside of Hanrahan, the bullpen is pretty average. Guys like Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Daniel McCutchen and Joe Beimel have all been decent this year, though each of their main cogs in the 'pen can be scored on.
The Pirates are a good team enjoying their best season in nearly two decades. They're desperate to win. With a half-game lead in the NL Central, they give the opposition a fight each night of the week. The Braves should expect to different.