Apr. 17, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens throws in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
At 38-33 and one game out of first place, the Pirates open a seven-game road trip against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark. Tonight it's Jeff Karstens, fresh off the DL, against Joe Blanton at 7:05. The Pirates will play 14 consecutive days before the all-star break and have a real opportunity to prove they can stay competitive in the National League playoff race.
Charlie mentioned in today's podcast that the Phillies' staff is giving up about a run more a game than the Pirates so far this season. Not many would have be on that in April. The Phillies will go with Blanton and Vance Worley in the first two games, but have left Wednesday and Thursday's day game as TBA. With Cliff Lee pitching Sunday, Roy Halladay on the shelf and the Phillies playing a doubleheader yesterday, the Bucs seem to be rolling into the City of Brotherly Love (is their a more misleading moniker anywhere) at the right time. After a three game series in St. Louis, the Pirates will come home for four with the Astros and three with the Giants. At this point, every series they play is now the most important and really does have some significance. Going 8-6 in these last 14 would be a great way to go into the break.
The Bucs lineup is now starting to become pretty predictable and that's probably a good thing. The right-hander Blanton has been terrible of late. He's given up at least five earned runs in six of his last seven starts and he's given up at least one HR in each of his last eight starts. Here's the group that will try to do the damage tonight:
Pirates starters have posted a 1.17 ERA in the last six games (38.1IP/5ER). Kevin Correia's two earned runs against yesterday was the most during that stretch. Jeff Karstens will try to keep it going against this lineup for the Phils: