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Game thread and notes: Pirates begin series against Rangers

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the lineups for tonight's 8:05 matchup against former Pirate Jeff Banister and the Rangers.

Jordy Mercer SS
Andrew McCutchen CF
David Freese 3B
Jung Ho Kang DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Starling Marte LF
Josh Harrison 2B
Gregory Polanco RF
Sean Rodriguez 1B

Jon Niese P

Jurickson Profar 2B
Ian Desmond CF
Prince Fielder DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Nomar Mazara RF
Ryan Rua LF
Mitch Moreland 1B
Elvis Andrus SS
Bobby Wilson C

Cole Hamels P

I wasn't able to do a full preview for this series, but a couple quick notes on what to watch for from the Rangers:

  • We're used to seeing Desmond as an infielder, but he's quietly has an excellent season, both offensively and defensively, in center field.
  • This series won't feature second baseman Rougned Odor, who's starting the suspension he earned for punching Jose Bautista a couple weeks back. The Rangers have recalled Jurickson Profar to take his place, and Profar will start in the big leagues tonight for the first time since 2013.
  • Look out for rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara, who's batting .320/.365/.500 with eight homers in 39 games this season. We might see another power-hitting former top prospect later in the series, as the Rangers recently promoted Joey Gallo, who appears to have made some adjustments at the plate and had his strikeout-to-walk at Triple-A. The lefty-hitting Gallo won't start tonight with Jon Niese on the hill, however.
  • Prince Fielder has been among MLB's worst players this year, batting .193/.269/.281 while playing DH almost exclusively.
  • Desmond, Ryan Rua and Adrian Beltre, all right-handed hitters, have been tough on lefties this season. The Bucs start two lefties this series, with Francisco Liriano going Sunday.
  • It'll be an interesting series for Pirates hitters, who must face not only Hamels, but also Yu Darvish, who will make his first start since August of 2014 on Saturday.
  • The Rangers' bullpen has produced the worst ERA (5.32) of any team this season except the Reds. That's partially because of players who are now off the roster or in reduced roles, however. The current group of Rangers relievers throws hard (Matt Bush, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Luke Jackson all throw in the mid-90s or harder), and there's real talent there, particularly in Dyson, Diekman and Bush. Former closer Shawn Tolleson, who's in the midst of a terrible season, has left the team to be with his father, who is suffering from cancer.