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As you prepare to host the reigning World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, you have to felt good to any Pittsburgh Pirates player or official who happened to check out the Los Angeles Times ahead of the three-game series that kicks off Tuesday. The headline read as follows:
“Dodgers are still waiting for the season to start as they step into a soft part of the schedule.”
Yes, the pirates represent “soft”. You have most of the past 28 years. This year’s edition currently ranks last in the National League Central with a 23-35 record. However, they just won three out of four games against the equally pathetic Miami Marlins.
But this L.A. Times story makes sense. If there was ever a chance for the streaky Dodgers to hit high gear – and stay there – in 2021, this upcoming streak at PNC Park is a good place to start.
The Pirates are part of a 15-game route for Los Angeles that only caters to under 500 teams. After their three games on the North Shore, the Dodgers tangle with the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
But that “soft” point of planning started with two out of three being dropped to the Atlanta Braves, a series in which L.A. only scored one home run at Truist Park. This is a stadium that has allowed 98 home runs, most of them in baseball. This is a statistic that the pirates can confirm with certainty.
PNC Park is currently 26th in this category. But Albert Pujols is now playing for the Dodgers. So, based on his career against the pirates, expect that number to grow exponentially by close of business on Thursday afternoon.
Pujols has 30 career homers at the Pirates’ home ground, the most opposing ballpark in his illustrious career, apart from Houston Minute Maid Park (33).
By the way, it was Pujols who met this lonely homer for the Dodgers in Atlanta, his fourth since joining the club. So buckle up. Perhaps the fountain in Point State Park represents his fountain of youth.
Unless the Pirates serve as a starter to a Dodgers feeding frenzy that lasts for much of the remaining summer months, one must wonder if Dodgers fans should expect a year-round roller coaster season.
Their current funk, in which they lost six out of nine games, comes after a 13-2 stretch. Manager Dave Roberts’ team also started the season 13-2. But they put in a 5-15 dip in between. So if ever there was a team that wanted to use the Stumblebum Pirates to get back on track, it’s these Dodgers.
“It was inconsistent I think,” said Roberts after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Braves. “It turned out to be a really good game. Slightly mediocre game. The win-loss, that’s not what I’m concerned with at the moment. ”
Maybe Roberts is on something. Despite all the ups and downs this season, the Dodgers are still nine games over .500 (34-25). That’s the sixth best record in baseball.
It happens to be the third best record in its own league. The San Francisco Giants lead the National League West at 37:22 (the best record in the MLB), and the San Diego Padres are second in the division at 37:25.
“The pitching was very good across the board. The offense, I think we have to take good bats. Just be more consistent on this side, ”added Roberts.
To underline Roberts’ point, the Dodgers rank in the top half or top third in most offensive categories – including second in runs scored (1,996). Her pitchers are fourth in the MLB in the ERA team with 3.26.
This week the Pirates will miss front-of-the-line starters Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer. Don’t assume this will get any easier for manager Derek Shelton and his lineup. The Dodgers will send Tony Gonsolin up the hill on Wednesday, making his season debut after starting a right shoulder infection on the injured list in 2021.
But the other two games will see Walker Buehler (4-0, 2.82 ERA) and Julio Urias (8-2, 3.48 ERA), who leads the National League in victories.
The Pirates will counter with a Major League Worst OPS of .649 on the plate and JT Brubaker, Tyler Anderson and Mitch Keller on the hill. The Pirates have not had a win since beating the Giants 8-6 on May 15 against a team with a record over .500.
Perhaps the Dodgers’ presence is at least reason enough to draw a few fans to the ballpark after a weekend series of four games that saw only 26,427 fans in the stadium.
That’s the sum for all four goals. Not on average. That number was only 6,607 people per game.
So much for the idea that after the pandemic protocols were lifted, fans would return to the stadium regardless of the product on the field. Those who at least had the habit of walking before the coronavirus seem to have dropped out of it.
Regardless, the chances are good that PNC Park will prove to be a “soft” spot for the Dodgers to land, and possibly the start of another of their hot streaks.
Tim Benz is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or on Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise noted.
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