The problem with a rollercoaster, is that you start at the bottom, and you’re ultimately let down again in the end. The middle part is a heck of a lot of fun though.
So it was on the Detroit Tigers 10 game road trip out west. We still recall the wind in our hair and the joyous shrieks on the air as we rode the big hills at high speed in Houston, but Oakland was the sticky-handed, teenaged Napoleon in Oakleys forcing you to sit in the coaster for an extra ten minutes while they sort out something on another part of the track, before finally releasing you to begin another hour-long trudge to the front of the line.
Now, the Tigers welcome in the venerable Pittsburgh Pirates for a three-game set. The Pirates shook off a six-game losing streak in the season’s first week, but are winners of six of their last nine. The two clubs are both projected to finish last in their division, but always seem to play each other pretty tough. As far as matchups go, this is a reasonable one for both sides.
We asked Jeremy Brener, editor over at our sister site for the Pirates, Bucs Dugout, a couple of questions to get into the spirit. You can find my responses to their questions there.
BYB: As a fellow bottom feeder to our Tigers, the Pirates seem to be playing right to their team projections thus far, but you guys dealt with a six-game losing streak after Opening Day and have been rolling over the past week or so. Is there anything in the early going giving you cause for optimism that the team might be better than expected?
JB: Our ROY frontrunner Ke’Bryan Hayes went down during the second game of the season, and he was one of the only hopes for optimism this season. However, in his place, utility guy Phillip Evans has been impressive. He’s played most of the games this year at third, but can move to the outfield as well. They have also won six of their last nine and Colin Moran, the team’s cleanup hitter, has been the cleanup hitter this team has needed. He’s ranked fifth in the NL in RBI’s so far.
BYB: Which of the three starters we’ll face in this series, Tyler Anderson, Mitch Keller, and JT Brubaker, do you have the most confidence in right now?
JB: JT Brubaker has yet to allow more than one run in each of his starts this season, so I’d have to go with him. However, out of the three, Keller has the highest upside, but he had a rough start against the Padres last week, giving up seven runs in 3.1 innings. Hopefully he bounces back in his start this week.
BYB: Yeah, we’re definitely not the Padres. Which hitter in your lineup has been the hottest or the coolest compared to preseason expectations?
JB: Gregory Polanco started off incredibly cold, but has picked it back up in the past week or so. However, he still bats under .200. Colin Moran has stayed around the .300 mark in four series so far, which is a bit better than expected, same as Adam Frazier, who usually bats in the leadoff spot.
BYB: Are you guys taking good care of Don Kelly for us?
JB: He’s been a great addition to Derek Shelton’s staff. It’s always a benefit when you have a guy who has played multiple positions. He’s basically a Swiss army knife and that’s so valuable on a coaching staff especially when we have multiple guys who can play multiple positions. You can rest assured knowing he is in good hands here in Pittsburgh.
BYB: Give us your prediction for the series.
JB: The Pirates have won six of their last nine. They’re coming in hot. The Tigers are coming off being swept. I don’t think the same will happen here, but I think the best case scenario for the Buccos is taking two of three from the Tigers. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if it went 2-1 the other way.
Thanks to Jeremy Brener for taking the time to exchange a few questions before the series. We’d urge you to hop on over to Bucs Dugout and take a read around the place. They also do a post-series recap podcast you can check out.