Sports Magazine

Game 23: Reds at Pirates 04.29.16

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
Game preview:
"Reds-Pirates Preview
7:05 PM ET
Line: PIT -153
CIN: Straily (0-0 , 3.50 ERA) PIT: Nicasio (2-2 , 4.50 ERA)
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2129 tickets available
12:22 AM ET
Clint Hurdle got the Pittsburgh Pirates to believe in his new approach for the offense, and it's paying off with the franchise's best April at the plate in 86 years.
That offensive surge is likely to continue as the Pirates open a three-game series with the visiting Cincinnati Reds, who have one of the worst staffs in baseball.
Hurdle is using a combination of rest and strategy to spur Pittsburgh (13-9) offensively. The moves have produced 119 runs and a .294 average, the Pirates' highest in April since hitting .331 in 1930.
"It's lineup construction. It's on-base percentage. It's matching up slugging percentage. It's trying to pocket different hitters in different spots so you're not soft in any one area," Hurdle said. "It's connecting a strong chain where there's no weak link."
The idea was hatched in the offseason and presented to the players.
"Conversations were had, so they were understanding of it -- what we were trying to build, what we planned on building. They were asked for their input," Hurdle said. "Then we put the whole package together and ran it in spring training ... believing it was going to give us an opportunity, more consistent coming out of the gate, as well as the entire season."
Only four Pirates have appeared in every game, but they all got some rest with Thursday's rainout at Colorado. Pittsburgh has won four straight and six of seven.
Josh Harrison is one of the players that's been in every contest, and he leads the team with a .333 average while his 13 RBI are tied for second. The second baseman hit .197 with 10 RBI through 53 career games in April prior to this season.
He's been particularly hot of late, hitting .415 with nine RBI in the last 11 games. Harrison is 8 for 21 over his last five meetings with the Reds.
Gregory Polanco, who has also played in every game, is having a brilliant opening month with a .329 average and team-leading 14 RBI after hitting .278 and driving in seven runs in 20 games over the past two Aprils.
That production isn't likely to slow down with Cincinnati (9-13) owning a 5.45 ERA that ranks only better than Milwaukee (5.60) and Colorado (5.93).
The Reds have a 6.90 ERA -- 7.16 from the rotation -- during a 1-6 stretch after losing their fourth in a row with Wednesday's 5-2 defeat to the New York Mets.
Part of the problem stems from Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and John Lamb starting the season on the disabled list.
"It will be nice to have a little more experience in the rotation," manager Bryan Price told MLB's official website.
While the trio is nearing a return, Dan Straily (0-0, 3.50 ERA) gets the ball in the opener. The right-hander has allowed four runs with nine strikeouts and five walks in 9 2/3 innings while starting in his last two appearances after his first three came out of the bullpen.
He labored Saturday, throwing 97 pitches while getting the hook with two outs in the fifth after allowing three runs in a 13-5 win over the Chicago Cubs.
The Pirates turn to Juan Nicasio (2-2, 4.50) a day after his scheduled start was rained out. The right-hander has been vastly better at home than on the road in his first season in Pittsburgh.
Nicasio has won both of his starts at PNC Park with a 3.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP while striking out 13 and walking two in 12 innings. He has a 6.75 ERA in two road outings.
Nicasio is 0-2 with a 5.12 ERA in seven games -- three starts -- against the Reds."

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